How MaaS is reshaping Australia’s transport future

Mobility as a Service concept

Customers, rather than regulators and transport providers, will be the driving force in determining Australia’s mobility future, according to a new report from Roads Australia.

Based on learnings from a recent Roads Australia Study Tour to the United States and Canada, the Future Transport: Smart Cities 2019 Report concludes that private vehicle ownership is on the way out as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) reshapes the country’s transport future.

RA President and Study Tour Leader, David Stuart-Watt, said that in the US, MaaS is the “new black”.

“It’s being driven by a recognition that governments and transport service providers need to plan and provide flexible, integrated transport options from a customer’s perspective,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.

“This puts the onus on those providers to collaborate so the customer journey is as seamless as possible. In that context, end-to-end charging is a no-brainer.

“The technology to support single payment options is far advanced and could be rolled out tomorrow. And as we know, the development of autonomous vehicle technology isn’t far behind.

“This transition is already driving integrated transport policy discussions and outcomes in Australia and could be a reality in the very near future.”

Mr Stuart-Watt said the future transport journey for an urban Australian could start with being picked up from home by an on-demand, autonomous shuttle, delivered to the nearest rail station or Rapid Transit bus interchange, and then being met by another shuttle to drop you to your office, school or appointment – all managed and paid for via an app on your phone.

But the trade-off may be a necessary shift in our transport culture away from single occupant vehicles to shared vehicles – in effect, an end to wholesale private vehicle ownership.

“Companies like Uber don’t see a future where today’s privately-owned vehicles will be replaced by more expensive privately owned electric/self-driving vehicles,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.

“Rather, the fleet-based MaaS model they envisage will gradually replace private vehicle ownership.”

While Mr Stuart-Watt acknowledged this prospect may be uncomfortable for Australians who love their cars, he said he did not expect governments will stand in the way of the transition.

“With the potential for each shared vehicle to replace ten privately owned cars, the cost and social benefits that accrue from reduced congestion will be enormous.”

The changes that are coming are expected to benefit elderly people and people living with a disability in particular, with the promise of cheaper, more efficient transport and greater independence.

“The latest US research shows that people with disabilities pay up to ten times more for transportation because of their specific needs, such as a dedicated driver or specialised vehicle,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.

More accessible Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) that service those specific needs are also expected to form part of the suite of autonomous vehicles on the horizon.

Despite the excitement around the new wave of self-driving, zero-emission vehicles currently in development, Mr Stuart-Watt said it was important to maintain perspective.

“Whilst CAVs may signal the end of private vehicle ownership, they won’t replace the public and active transport options that are essential parts of our current journey mix.

“In fact, efficient mass transit systems will be more critical than ever to do the ‘heavy lifting’ in our transport task. We need to urgently and significantly increase our investment in mass transit to cope with population growth in this country.”

The Roads Australia report makes a number of recommendations to support the mobility revolution that is coming. These include:

  • Greater collaboration on transport research and innovation within Australia’s university sector, with future government seed funding conditional on projects involving more than one university as well as attracting private funding
  • Transitioning away from our current fuel levy-based system of charging road users
  • Stronger collaboration between the three tiers of government on integrated transport and land-use planning
  • Stronger national leadership, support and investment to help state and local governments make infrastructure ‘CAV-ready’
  • The establishment of a collaborative facility that connects companies (small and large) to government, academic institutions and other players in the ‘mobility ecosystem’ to stimulate innovation in automated, electric, shared and connected transportation technology
  • The development by the Federal Government of a business case for the establishment of a small-scale vehicle manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to kick-start a ‘bespoke’ industry for new vehicle technologies in Australia.

The Roads Australia Future Transport: Smart Cities 2019 Report is available to download at https://www.roads.org.au.

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