MaaS (Mobility as a Service)
The concept of Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, incorporates the use of smartphone apps and other new technologies to provide consumers with optimized mobility solutions that combine a myriad of private and public transportation services.
In the supply-chain management and transportation industries, “Last Mile” is a term that describes the movement of people and goods from an airport, train station or other transportation hub to their final destinations. Usage of the term is becoming more and more common, as both users and providers of transportation services continue to rethink mobility solutions.
MaaS originated in Finland, where transportation related challenges mirror those in Japan. A high reliance on privately owned automobiles, urban traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and a lack of transportation options in rural communities for those without drivers licenses were all problems that contributed to the development of MaaS. Governments around the world are now planning ways to leverage digital technologies and data to solve last-mile problems, creating legislation and promoting the development of smartphone apps.
When entering their final destinations into a last-mile smartphone app, travelers are presented with optimized routes that combine a variety of transportation services, including community buses, taxis and shared bicycles. Travelers can also make bookings and payments through the apps. These services were first launched in Finland and are now expanding throughout Europe. More and more businesses and organizations have begun introducing them here in Japan as well.
Two examples of last-mile mobility solutions include AI-driven, automated car dispatching systems that have been developed in response to labor shortages and shrinking customer bases in the taxi industry, and environmentally conscious systems that promote the shared use of electric vehicles. By combining these kinds of new technologies and ideas, MaaS is demonstrating tremendous potential as a business model.
We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century mobility revolution, a time when new technologies are helping to realize unprecedented value, convenience and enjoyment for travelers and commuters. These innovations could prove to be the "last-mile" link to a sustainable future.
Together with Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Corporation has established the joint-venture company, Next Mobility Co., Ltd. to provide a commercial, on-demand-bus (OBD) transit service in Island City, which is located in Fukuoka City's Higashi-ward. The service, dubbed "KnowRoute," is controlled by an AI booking and dispatching system developed by Canada's Spare Labs Inc. Trials of the service are already underway. By helping to address problems like falling bus riderships and labor shortages, Mitsubishi Corporation hopes that this joint venture will create an efficient and sustainable system of public transportation.
This article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's “GLOBE” feature of September 1, 2019