For the climate target of the Paris Agreement to be met, the transport sector must make a rapid and successful transition towards sustainability. Broad consensus exists on the need to phase out internal combustion engines and push for intermodal mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) offerings that can compete with car ownership as a means for individuals to get around from one place to another.
At the 51st St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland in early May, 15 leaders from the MaaS space joined a roundtable of experts to outline a path for the rapid deployment and scale of new solutions that can meet or , ideally, exceed consumer expectations. Summarizing the results of this roundtable, the white paper “Why Only Collaboration Can Push Mobility as a Service to the Next Level” was published last week. All roundtable participants highlighted the potential for a collaborative advantage through digitalization.
Any MaaS solution rests on a foundation of digital infrastructure, and the St. Gallen white paper recognizes Huawei as a key part of that foundation. Starting with smartphones and affordable data plans enabled by high-performance mobile networks on cloud infrastructure to data management, Huawei is helping the transition to sustainable mobility.
All roundtable participants affirmed that the large-scale success of MaaS depends on the increased efforts of all stakeholders. Intermodal transport, in particular, must be based on a collaborative approach. An often overlooked aspect of this relates to data exchanges and common data spaces enabling such collaboration.
The key success criteria for these data spaces come down to built-in digital trust and interoperability. Without these two properties, fully integrated solutions providing a seamless reservation and transportation experience that the panelists consider the game changer for MaaS will not be possible.
On the other hand, the assembled experts pointed to systemic dependencies and governance frameworks stabilizing the status quo as difficult obstacles to overcome. These include incompatible public transport fare systems from one neighboring region to another or the inability of urban plans to provide a cyclist-friendly environment and micro-mobility solutions.
Technological challenges can be overcome more easily. Already today, common reference architectures, standards for metadata and data semantics, or homomorphic encryption offer avenues leading to solutions to the most pressing challenges of establishing cross-modal MaaS.
Policymakers and market players must collaborate to open up and make useful the data, APIs and remuneration mechanisms currently sealed in data silos. The white paper specifically mentions the tourist transport initiative in the Andermatt region of Switzerland as a positive example of how all stakeholders can pursue the same vision in a coherent, transparent and joint way – without a hidden agenda. As such, small-scale examples can be good blueprints for wider MaaS adoption.
Along the same lines, the Huawei Cloud mobility use cases can provide useful insights into how such collaboration can be achieved. For various MaaS providers on different continents, we have developed bespoke solutions that break down existing data silos. For a smooth driving experience, various specific breaks in data continuity must be bridged. The reservation interface must be able to communicate quickly and reliably with the service provider’s servers, which must be able to respond in real time to the transport options available. The identities of participating devices and parties must be verified. Wherever a human driver is still involved, sensors that ensure a safe journey and ensure that breaks are taken when the driver is tired should be integrated into the larger system while adhering to strict privacy standards. All of this needs to be underpinned by an appropriate infrastructure capable of delivering such services at scale.
With the latest technology and dedication to achieving customer-centric success, Huawei Cloud not only provides the technology solution, but also negotiates and protects the operation of the whole system with all stakeholders. Ultimately, the technology is there to serve so that not only the needs of the consumer are met, but also the requirements of the service provider.
MaaS solutions that leverage the collaborative advantage are a reality today, but they need to be scaled to involve more players. Only then can they deliver a true paradigm-shifting experience while supporting meaningful business models for private and public players to continue investing and innovating in the transport sector. Digitization is undoubtedly the key driver to realize this vision.
Dr Rene C. G. Arnold
Vice President of Public Affairs Strategy at Huawei