A mass alliance of experts keeps promising that soon we can live in automated communities with an omnipotent but benevolent transport system. This Mercurial god of travel will make us safer, healthier, richer and more fulfilled. The only missing piece of the puzzle is open communications.

Good luck with that one. I wouldn’t hold your breath, says Nick Booth.

Why the cynicism?

Well, for a start, despite the stated mission being to clarify communications across the entire internet of transport devices, this principle is not extended universally. Try asking anyone what Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) actually means. Even Wikipedia (which is generally a good source of common sense answers for the layman) is vague on this one. From industry people you will get a hundred different nebulous answers. The only thing these disparate explanations seem to have in common is the subtext: “Er, I’m not really sure myself.”

The promised land?

Without pointing the fingers at any companies or individuals, it is massively disappointing. How are we going to lead people to the promised land if we can’t create a readable map?

To understand how demoralising poorly planned directions can be, arrange a meeting with any IT company in London. The location data is always incomplete, with vital details missing. The address will be, say, 123 Crumbling District Road, but the building you want is never sandwiched between numbers 121 and 125. It’ll be round the corner.

Being an ancient city, London has endless streets that change names and numbering schemes with no warning and for no apparent reason. Sometimes a road will stop, then re-start in a completely different place. Which would be fine, if the person inviting you to the event thought to warn you about that. But they don’t. Which is the perfect metaphor for MaaS.

So you end up asking people. But nobody can tell you where the metaphorical home of MaaS is because, more often than not, they’re not from London anyway. The worst offenders will pretend to know, in a bid to impress, but send you off on a complete time wasting tangent. It would be far more honest if they said, “I dunno the way to MaaS Street mate. I’m a novice here myself.”

But they can’t do that in case they lose face. So how do we get to the MaaS acceptance party?

2018 : The year of multimodality

Wait, here’s a clue. ‘The European Commission has declared 2018 as ‘the year of multimodality’. Look for a legislative proposal covering the passenger rights in multimodal travel chains for the very first time. This will ensure a smooth and secure travel experience for the user.’ How? ‘By paying careful attention to multi-modality and ‘fulfilling the customers’ high expectations from the beginning’.

Nick Booth

‘MaaS companies and regulatory bodies have established a working group under the MaaS Alliance to establish a framework of the service promise and customer expectations to those operating in MaaS context.’

Excellent! No, wait, what does that mean? Are we there yet? Don’t ask me, I was rather hoping you would know.

The Bill of Rights is expected to be presented and launched at the ITS World Congress in Copenhagen, in September 2018.

Let’s hope they’ve agreed terms before then!

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

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