‘Mobility as a Service’ is Already Here but Accessibility is Not
Over recent years, the term ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS) has become increasingly dominant in research and industry events, as the automotive sector seeks to reshape itself to meet changing consumer travel habits. The term, which describes the shift away from personally-owned methods of transportation and towards mobility solutions that are consumed as a service has gained increasing coverage in the trade and wider media. However, technology experts Codeweavers’ MD Roland Schaack believes that to see this as a ‘future thinking’ is to underestimate what is already possible today.
As an industry we would do well to recognise that mobility solutions are already here and have been for decades. While we can muse the new funding and usership options of the future， we would do well to learn from the success of Amazon and the demise of High St retailers. Amazon has simply been doing things better in terms of accessibility and packaging than the High Street. The lesson we must learn from this is that we need to be better at is intelligently connecting people to their next car.
Schaack points to increasing travel by people across the UK regardless of generation as evidence that people are already picking and choosing travel options that meet their needs:
- While they fell back slightly in 2017, rail journeys have doubled in the last 20 years.
- Passenger demand has grown significantly at UK airports, averaging 4.2% per annum since 2011.
- At the end of June 2018, there were 31.5 million vehicles licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, up 1% on the previous year.
The fall in rail travel in 2017 is largely attributed to a combination of cost, over-crowding and industrial action. Again, Schaack sees this as pointing to the importance of accessibility and ease;
Rail travel fell for the first time since 2009/10, dropping back by 1.4%, but we can be almost certain, the majority of the missing passengers still travelled by another method and it will be one they found to be more accessible.
Accessibility, Schaack observes is already in place to support MaaS and people are using the full mix; walking, cycling, train, bus, plane and taxi. Technology is not making this happen, it already happens. Where things can get smarter is demonstrated by Uber; again their ace card is enhancing accessibility.
For today’s motor manufacturers, retailer and finance providers; their immediate focus needs to be on accessibility. People are still buying cars, even if annual mileage levels have fallen back a little.
To the expression ‘buying’ rather than ‘usership,’ consumer habits suggest a shift towards changing consumer habits may be overplayed. Across motor retailing/financing, the established wisdom for many years has been that customers settle financial agreements early, with the majority seldom ever buying their car. Five year finance has commonly equated to a real term of 26 – 32 months. If anything, it is the trend towards PCH, which is harder to settle early, that will extend the usage period of a financial agreement.
The demise of the car is probably being overstated, the freedom long associated with a car and thereby accessibility, remains attractive, as are convenience and security. What is not working so well is the accessibility to that next car; the level of friction in the process, both perceived and real is today’s major barrier. The lesson from Amazon is that as an industry we don’t need innovative new financing products immediately; what we need is to make what we have easier and more enjoyable to access.