Micromobility operator Voi and SaaS leader Trafi exchange thoughts on sustainable mobility, partnerships, happy users and the enormous potential of MaaS.
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When we hear the term “sustainable mobility”, we tend to imagine a city landscape with fewer cars. Today, even die-hard fans of the automobile concede that privately owned cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and take up too much space in crowded urban environments.
The alternative to cars as a way of achieving environmental goals is mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), understood as a single platform for shared mobility modes with public transport at its core. MaaS systems are only effective when they’re diverse and multimodal.
While Voi is providing one of the strongest shared micro-mobility services worldwide, Trafi is a software-as-a-service leader powering the largest MaaS platform in the world and connecting multiple mobility services in one place, including public transportation. Both companies agree: collaboration is the key to creating effective MaaS systems that are appealing enough to get people to leave their cars at home.
Read on to hear Voi and Trafi’s CEOs discuss sustainable mobility, teamwork, and turning future visions of transportation into tangible realities.
What’s your vision for MaaS, and how does your company fit into it?
Fredrik Hjelm: Voi’s vision is to create cities for living by harnessing the power of micromobility to replace short car trips, lessening traffic gridlock and the resulting carbon emissions. Partnering with like-minded organisations to enhance MaaS is key, as multimodal solutions provide end-users with seamless transportation alternatives that drive modal shift.
As our service matures and becomes an integral part of an urban mobility landscape, we know we stand a better chance of replacing car and taxi trips if we help to implement the right partnerships and infrastructure. We partner with public transport authorities and local governments to champion MaaS integrations that improve multimodality and make alternatives to cars attractive. Between 2019 and 2020, we saw a 20 per cent increase in car replacement rates.
Martynas Gudonavičius: At Trafi, we’ve developed our product to allow cities and companies to reach their climate and environmental goals first. We know we still have a long way to go before seeing less private vehicles in the streets. Our business model is only effective when we partner with others, as our product – software that connects vehicles and services into one app or network – becomes more efficient the more players it connects. That’s a reflection of our ethos on MaaS: helping cities, people and companies reach a lower emission rate by offering multiple alternative modes of transportation.
You both say that collaboration is the key to MaaS. How do you approach your partnerships?
FH: When we enter into MaaS partnerships, we align with our partners on three crucial areas:
- Joint purpose: to become true partners to cities by enhancing the understanding of how users move through the cities and by developing solutions together (infrastructure, mobility hubs, etc.).
- Accessibility: we want to create the most accessible services, so we work with both public and private (commercial MaaS) partners to ensure we have multiple perspectives and strengths.
- Multimodality: we know that building out the services that support micromobility is essential to effect mobility change. Our e-scooters are just one part of the puzzle and complement the existing public transportation network.
MG: When we enter into new partnerships, we make sure we’re on the same page with our vision: to enable more sustainable mobility options. We work together with our partners to create enough options and deep integrations into our platform – which are the basis of multimodality – so that our users’ expectations are met or exceeded. We also try to integrate as many providers as we can, including car-sharing, bikes, mopeds or e-scooters. We believe the diversity of our offering is a strong incentive for people to use MaaS.
What does “sustainable mobility” mean to you?
FH: For Voi, sustainable mobility means providing carbon-neutral (moving towards carbon-negative) transportation solutions that are safe, convenient, affordable, and accessible for the long term.
Sustainable mobility relies on systemic, integrated approaches to transportation. This takes the work of many hands to ensure that the right partnerships, research, policies, infrastructure, and solutions are in place.
MG: At Trafi, we firmly believe that the common goal should be creating a climate-neutral – not carbon-neutral – transport system. It’s one thing to be emission-free with electric vehicles, but reducing overall energy consumption is another story. For us, sustainable mobility means hitting environmental and social targets at the same time. We want to make MaaS ultimately convenient and usable for cities, people and companies so that all groups view shared mobility as the “best” and most equitable way to move. Sustainable mobility solutions should be designed to contribute positively to the people they serve, lifting up societies, the environment and economies in the process.
How can cities help accelerate the adoption of shared mobility?
FH: To encourage shared mobility, cities need to focus on the elements that make these services attractive. We believe that the following principles can help guide the transition to shared mobility:
- collaborating closely with cities and other mobility operators;
- Prioritising accessibility and equitable alternative transportation (walking, cycling, public transport, micro-mobility) over vehicles; and
- Ensuring shared use of infrastructure, such as roadways and cycling lanes.
MG: It’s all about having a clearly outlined and shared strategy for what needs to be done. In our experience, we’ve found that cities are often highly motivated to enhance their existing infrastructure and mobility systems. But taking the first step in building out a MaaS network requires keeping track of many moving parts, which is why it’s important to have a clear plan in place that highlights what infrastructure needs to be built, how multiple mobility agents are going to work together, and how mobility users’ needs are being addressed. We also noticed that it’s often easier for cities to work with private technology partners to set up the best MaaS networks. We provide cities with as many updates and iterations of our products as possible. As we support research and development costs directly, they can focus their efforts on enhancing available infrastructure.
What is Voi’s strategy for attracting more users onto its app?
FH: Since we began operations in 2018, we’ve grown in leaps and bounds, and learned a lot along the way. We currently provide shared e-scooter services to more than 50 cities in 11 countries across Europe, where we’ve served over 35 million rides to six million users to date. We continually built on our experiences in working with local authorities, scaling e-scooter operations, and committing to the safety and education of all road users to advance micro-mobility.
Our riders are at the centre of our services — through our focus on the research, partnerships, and initiatives that promote safety, rider education, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability. These are the topics that resonate with people, and they play a huge part in retaining and attracting users.
How can companies make MaaS more appealing to consumers?
MG: This is the million-dollar question. We believe that to really get people to use MaaS in “real life”, mobility systems have to be coherent and functional enough to appeal to many people. That means creating digital services that are convenient, flexible, and easy-to-use; offering new innovations that can move us towards climate neutrality, such as mobility budgets (which are popular amongst users and have been proven to help cities and companies meet their sustainability goals); and providing a variety of options so that everybody’s unique needs are met.
This balancing act is a huge part of what we’re working on at Trafi. On the one hand, we’re building MaaS systems that people genuinely enjoy using in their daily lives, and on the other, we’re helping cities reimagine their transport systems to be future-proofed and sustainably designed. In simple terms, we want to make MaaS the best transport option available for the most people possible – including future generations to come.