Clogged up roads, the climate crisis, innovation and the rise of the sharing economy are all helping to drive a greater focus on how we move around our towns and cities.
The concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is gaining traction, but as we see a societal shift towards this new way of getting about, what does it mean for the in‐car experience? And could it herald the end of car ownership?
Increasing numbers of car owners in urban areas are being forced to give up driving to work due to eye‐wateringly expensive parking fees, massive traffic jams and the consequent loss of productivity caused by the road congestion. They can see the benefits of MaaS, which represents a shift away from personal vehicle ownership to the integration of various forms of transport services that are provided in a single mobility service which is accessible on demand and which aims to be cost effective, convenient and more sustainable and to reduce congestion and the constraints of transport capacity.
The movement towards MaaS has been driven by the rise of ride, bike and car sharing services, e‐hailing and on‐demand ‘pop‐up’ bus services. Additionally, city authorities and public transport providers have become better at integrating multiple modes of transport into a trip, and have rolled out seamless booking and payment mechanisms, such as the use of contactless payment cards on London’s transport networks. Adding the potential future role of self‐driving cars to the mix, it seems inevitable that the way we travel will alter. This in turn has led to questions about how commuting will change and whether we are reaching the economic tipping point of car ownership versus on‐demand services.
For those of us who started driving before the millennium, central locking or a decent in‐car stereo was about as good as it got. Now, it’s all about the in‐car experience. “The in‐car experience is increasingly viewed as a living space,” explains Juergen Reers, managing director and global Mobility X.0 lead, Accenture.
The in‐car experience is increasingly viewed as a living space
- Juergen Reers, managing director and global Mobility X.0 lead, Accenture
“You have your home, office and then you have your car. So far, cars have been designed to be very driver‐centric. But major industry fairs and trade shows such as CES show how we are moving to a more user‐centric interpretation of how we use a vehicle – and the user might not necessarily be the driver of the vehicle. We can now use technology to create different experiences for the driver and for the other riders in the vehicle. Think of split screens, which are already in the market, and where the content is customized by the angle of view, enabling the passenger to watch a movie while the driver has a limited on‐screen visual that doesn’t distract them from the traffic.”
Reers believes MaaS offers opportunities for differentiation in the future. “At the moment, a car‐sharing vehicle, or one used for a ride‐hailing service, is pretty much the same as a vehicle used for private ownership. But in the future, it will be more purpose built. More digital services will be brought into the vehicle, enabling a lot of content to be created via streaming services – and many of these tech improvements will be driven by falling costs of the technologies involved.”
Piia Karjalainen, senior manager, MaaS Alliance, believes that private car ownership might decline and there will be an increase in vehicle fleet managers, which will in turn have an impact on the in‐car experience. She explains: “In the future it will be important that vehicles will be designed in a way that takes into account that it’s not anyone’s own vehicle. So, when you enter the vehicle and start driving, all the tools that you need to operate the vehicle are there and are easy to understand, so you can just start driving a car even if you haven’t driven it before.”
A futurologist/policy advisor who asked to remain anonymous says the future of the in‐car experience should be considered as two questions: what is the desired future and what is actually going to happen?
“To really be able to rethink the narrative of the in‐car experience, we need to have a holistic view of the entire ecology of movement,” he says. “Our infrastructure dates all the way back to the Roman empire and, as a result, we are forced to restrict our ability to create new experiences to an outdated form of movement.
..to be able to rethink the narrative of the in‐car experience, we need to have a holistic view of the ecology of movement
“The simple fact is that every technological space given to consumers was always re‐purposed by the people to deliver personal value. No one can really predict how in a perfect world the in‐car experience will be used and re‐purposed, yet we should be able to better understand the role of data and dialogs to always capture and better the experiences. Sadly, we are far from that realty. We can offer as many forms of transportation as we wish; in the eye of the traffic jam, we are all equal.”
As access to data is improved – and given the increasing digitization of lifestyles – a key question is how the in‐car experience will have to adapt to better serve consumers’ needs and behaviors. The futurologist/policy advisor says this revolves around policy and the economy of privacy.
“We live in a world where technology is observing us more than we are looking at information behind the screen,” he says. “In this reality, the borders between physical and digital fade away. It’s not just about car experiences. It about experiences that enable a smooth transition between different environments while maintaining high‐value output. How many policymakers understand what I just said? That is the problem, we don’t have the tools to use data; we have tools that restrict us and don’t allow the creation of values.”
Reers points out that when it comes to cars, we spend a lot of time in transit. “We can make much better use of this time – and if we move around, a lot of data is generated, and a lot of information is available that’s relevant to us,” he says.
“The challenge is to create a seamless experience of all functionality when using your smartphone, so that all the applications and digital ecosystem that matters to you can be used seamlessly in the vehicle that you are currently using, whether you are a driver or a passenger. This also relates to the infrastructure where a user can access intelligent information and data which reflects their ecosystem, such as location‐based services and dynamic information which is customized to their needs at a given point in time. That’s the challenge and the opportunity at the same time – and this can open up a huge market.”
The challenge is to create a seamless experience of all functionality when using your smartphone
G+D’s approach of Dual Sim Dual Active (DSDA) goes right into this direction. One SIM is used by the car OEM to enable telematics and eCall services, while the second SIM is used to provide seamless connectivity for the driver by using his own data plan.
Karjalainen also believes there will be an increased focus on making transit time more productive in the future. “Possibly in 10 years, there will be more focus on how we use our time when we are moving from one place to another,” she says.
“Already, MaaS is making commuting more convenient – you have personalised travel assistance, which makes the journey smoother, and there is more time to access media, read books, listen to podcasts and such like. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see MaaS bundled with other offerings such as your media account. Eventually, you won’t be paying for mobility itself, but it will be part of wider service. For example, if you want to go to a certain restaurant, you’ll book your table in that restaurant and the mobility to that restaurant will be paid for and ordered by the restaurant, so you’ll only pay for the service that you ordered and mobility will be included in it.”
Experts at Daimler Mobility report: “The challenge is to offer solutions that address customers individually and offer them maximum flexibility. This makes it even more important for customers to be able to link various systems and solutions with each other and use them seamlessly without great effort. Creativity is a crucial skill in this regard. This is why it is also important, for example, to consider services that we do not directly relate to today’s understanding of mobility.”
End of car ownership?
The rise of MaaS has inevitably led to some declaring that it heralds the end of people owning their own cars. But industry experts argue that rumours of the death of car ownership have been greatly exaggerated.
“There will always be people who like to own and drive their own cars,” says Reers. “It will gradually change, and there will be an inflection point where there will be a more exponential growth towards shared services of all different kinds. Increasingly, what we’re seeing is subscription‐based models where you have the right to access various cars over the course of the year. You’re seeing flat‐rate driving models, where you have access to different cars at any given time in different locations. So the forms will be more differentiated over the years to come, but I think that, depending on the user segment, there will always be certain, and quite a significant share, of individual car ownership.
…rumours of the death of car ownership have been greatly exaggerated
Karjalainen also doesn’t think MaaS will mean the end of car ownership. “There are definitely regions and areas where there won’t be any other option than to get around by private vehicle. I come from Finland where we have very long distances and lots of rural areas, and it won’t be very profitable or viable to organise transport in these locations by any other means than by private car. But what we want to enable, is that in densely populated urban environments there is no need to own a car if the person doesn’t want to.
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