We continue to explore the developments of MaaS in the past few years from different perspectives, giving the floor to the diverse sectors of our Membership. We take the opportunity to celebrate our achievements and activities of the past 5 years and continue our conversation with the founding and current Board Members of the MaaS Alliance. This month, we talk to Joost Vantomme, Smart Mobility Director at the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

ACEA is the advocate for the EU automotive industry, representing the 15 major Europe-based manufacturers of passenger cars, vans, trucks and buses. ACEA joined the MaaS Alliance in 2016 and has been involved in its further evolution, also having a seat on the Board of Directors.

What made you join? How do you as association and interests fit in an ecosystem that support multimodal transport and optimised mobility mix as an alternative for private vehicles?
ACEA’s members have a diverge range of vehicles in their portfolio, not just cars, and as an organisation we have rapidly evolved from a ‘traditional’ trade association focusing on products towards one that puts more emphasis on services and technology. In our view, it is not a question of ‘vehicles against other transport modes’ but rather about vehicles bringing added value to multimodal transport by delivering inclusive mobility solutions for all Europeans.

The drive towards decarbonisation, digitalisation and automation has allowed for new mobility concepts to flourish, including on-demand services and innovative logistics concepts in which vehicle manufacturers invest heavily.

Affordable mobility really is about offering an even broader choice of different vehicles types and transport modes – across various price segments, providing suitable solutions for different budgets, each serving specific communities and mobility needs – ranging from inner-city delivery and regional commuting to long-distance travel.

If you now look back 5 years, the mobility industry has changed quite a lot. What are the most remarkable positive and negative changes / trends in your industry but also in the mobility industry in general?
The European automotive industry continues to be key contributor for mobility, employment, economic growth and innovation in Europe, representing  over 7% of the EU’s GDP and supporting millions of jobs.

A growing wave of new technologies and trends is redefining mobility as we know it. In the past years, new ambitions  such as the EU Green Deal, digitalisation and automation, and increasing safety requirements, have had an impact to the automotive sector at large,. On top of that, new players are entering the market and disrupting existing business models. The global trade environment also became increasingly uncertain in recent years of course.

Our members really have reinvented themselves, putting the service component first with new approaches to mobility such as on-demand mobility and multimodality. It is worth to notice that the EU auto industry is by far the world’s biggest investor in automotive R&D, investing €60.9 billion per year we also account for 29% of total EU R&D spending.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the whole automotive value chain last year and in 2020 we saw the biggest yearly drop in car demand since records began.. The jobs of more than 1.1 million Europeans working in automobile manufacturing were directly affected by factory shutdowns during the lockdown period, and that is just the short-term impact.

From the automotive industry point of view, do the trends we are dealing with, connectivity, automation and MaaS, support each other naturally or are they subjects of prioritisation in industry’s strategic roadmaps?
Digital solutions supported by automation in the transport sector are definitely an enabler for the development (at company level) of innovative business models and collaborative systems such as MaaS and Transport as a Service (TaaS) solutions. Vehicle manufacturers are looking into ways to complement their innovation efforts with approaches for ‘digital disruption’. Investments in V2V, V2I and V2X connectivity, combined with higher levels of automated driving and low-emission mobility offer disruptive and convenient solutions for city mobility and multimodality. Europe leads the world in technology for self-driving vehicles with 33.3% of all patent applications – ahead of China (8.2%), Japan (11.5%) and the United States (30.1%). However, the centre of economic gravity seems to be shifting to other regions, notably Asia.

Our members are increasingly active in the upstream and downstream value chains, think of mobility apps and platforms, and one-stop-shop services for example. However, these areas seem to be still subject to prioritisation. Investments in automation, artificial intelligence, connectivity, electrification, and shared mobility (including MaaS) remain a twin challenge when it comes to resources and matching supply and demand.

What barriers do you see and what are the next steps – at EU level but also globally – for the full deployment of MaaS services?
The MaaS Alliance has developed a nice compilation of the market and its main challenges and barriers to the deployment of MaaS services. These insights will be published as a part of the MaaS Market Playbook in the forthcoming weeks. Some examples of barriers from a business and regulatory perspective are:

Business models and cooperation: how to make the business model work? Is there enough room for involvement of integrators in the market without hindering the motivation and interest of partners to join? How to increase trust and alignment of interests in seamless public-private solutions? Everyone wants a share of the pie but is there enough pie for all? Trust is elementary for data exchange. Some fear losing their direct relationship with the customer, other may have first move advantages, such as public transport operators perhaps. Mobility has always been a pretty local market, while MaaS introduces international actors such as the big tech giants.

Scalability and market fragmentation: the MaaS market is still very fragmented. In Europe, regardless of the efforts of the European institutions, there is not a genuine single market for mobility. Lowering ramp-up costs and increasing scalability are key elements for the market players covering only one area is not enough to fulfil mobility needs (local, long distance).

Data economy push: the development of the MaaS market relies heavily on access to data, open APIs and interoperability of the systems. The data infrastructure underpinning new mobility services must enable interoperability, competition and innovation, while ensuring privacy, security, and accountability. That’s a major challenge of course.

Regulatory policy push: MaaS players are confronted with a patchwork of regulations and rules, at local, regional, national and EU level, combined with grey zones and cross-modal fragmentation. Think for example of urban vehicle access regulations, traffic rules, liability rules, public procurement frameworks, absence of integrated ticketing, closed API systems, etc. National and international (including EU) regulation can play a role here. In the current development phase of MaaS, however, regulatory efforts should be limited to, and focused on, removing barriers to integrated services. At this point more time is needed to let the market develop before regulating the unknown too strictly. Although it is too early to regulate MaaS, the time could be right for starting to harmonise the framework of the underlying mobility services. This market is more mature and known as we already have some five to ten years of experience. Automobile industry stakeholders as key stakeholders should be involved in a timelier and structured manner, for example  in the negotiation process of delegated acts, but also since vehicles are a fundamental component of the multimodal connected and automated mobility ecosystem

Finally, a whole mix of other challenges remains such as the need upgrade of the skills and IT knowledge of Europe’s workforce, overcoming the impact of COVID-19, etc.

How do you think MaaS will look in the next 5 years?
The ultimate vision of MaaS should be to enable roaming within the mobility ecosystem in order to provide seamless mobility for people and goods, both in city environments and beyond. Our MaaS Alliance will steadily grow with even more SMEs and IT players on board and with a global focus, not just a local one.

Micro-mobility will complement vehicle use and ownership, as vehicle manufacturers will offer and enable micro-transport modes as a fair alternative for inner city travel. MaaS systems will be interoperable and rely on more open data, also fostered by new EU rules in this domain.

Motor vehicles (low-emission, fully connected, automated) will play a vital role in MaaS as movers of people, goods and data. Finally, infrastructure providers will steadily adapt their legacy towards a flexible and smart physical and digital infrastructure for multimodal one-stop-shop connected and automated MaaS.