Regulation can be a thorny issue. Too much, and it stifles innovation and the marketplace. Too little, and there’s the worry that businesses will focus only on the most lucrative opportunities and ignore everything else.

As a fledgeling industry, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) innovation is rapidly taking shape. It has a huge part to play within the wider transportation framework. But bringing together public, private and commercial service providers and channels also means regulation will have to cater for all these different stakeholders.

Indeed, many countries are active in defining where regulation can – or should – play its part. The policy paper, ‘The Grand Challenges‘, highlights the UK Government’s aims to overhaul the way people and goods are moved around the country. Its 2040 plan to get rid of petrol and diesel cars is another example of how regulation looks set to create a shift in behaviour, away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives. Not to mention the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Act 2018. And that’s just one geographic area.

Whilst this isn’t MaaS per se, it shows how governments are looking to shape the utilisation of transportation and technologies, safeguarding citizens and addressing societal impacts. But should governments regulate MaaS? And if so, to what extent?

“There needs to be a regulatory framework, specifically addressing important issues like public safety, accessibility, inclusion and environmental considerations. If MaaS is developed purely from a commercial perspective, these topics may fall by the wayside as they are seen as less profitable or are not considered for other reasons.

‘Retrofitting MaaS for safety and accessibility will be costly and time consuming so it’s important to get all public and private stakeholders together now. Also to make sure the market doesn’t end up being over-regulated, there needs to be enough room for innovation. ”

Sandra Witzel, Head of Marketing at SkedGo

Supporting the bigger picture

We believe light touch regulation is important to the sector. One where business has the room to innovate and explore new commercial ventures whilst ensuring that the benefits are as wide-reaching as possible – for every section of society.

A recent UK House of Commons Transport Committee report stated customer interests ‘must be protected in case of accident or failure in service, and their financial interests must not be harmed as the MaaS market grows’. We would agree. The needs of citizens have to be put first. Apart from being ethically the right thing to do, ultimately they’re the ones that will pay for services.

There are also wider environmental issues to be considered, alongside the realities of how future transportation will be funded. The ‘European Roadmap 2025 for Mobility as a Service’ conference paper, highlights “Policy and regulation should encourage and guide the development of the transport sector in using more efficient and sustainable mobility solutions to achieve sustainability targets. Insufficient public funding also presses the need to find new ways of organizing transport services.”

The reality is, governments can’t do this on their own. This calls for public-private partnerships (PPPs). Indeed, it calls for all stakeholders to work together to take account of the broader societal issues – inclusivity, public safety, privacy, data protection, and emission and congestion reductions. The MaaS Alliance is working hard to do just that.

The setting of common standards and open data best practice is also essential to help enterprises and partnerships ensure frictionless travel within countries and across borders. “Without international standards and regulation it is challenging for companies to grow and expand to other market regions, and there is a significant risk that solutions remain at the local level even if they have the potential to become world-wide solutions.” That was the verdict of ‘The European Roadmap 2025 for Mobility as a Service’ conference paper.

Clearly, there’s too much at stake to leave it to the marketplace alone. That being said, we still need to tread carefully.

A word of caution

Where to draw the line with regulation is always an issue – one that not everyone will agree on. Whilst commercial ventures can’t be let loose without regard for public safety or consideration for inclusivity, we don’t want to squash the innovation and creativity that got us to where we are right now.

In fast-moving markets such as MaaS, regulators need to have a solid understanding of the technology at every stage of its development and life cycle. In addition, consideration has to be given to the time it takes for new legislation to come into force. Technology evolves quickly and lawmakers have to keep pace.

There is no easy answer. There will be heated debate and disagreement. But spirited discussion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s important. It opens up new ways of thinking and maybe issues that were not previously thought about. Ultimately, it comes down to taking a balanced approach – not only for competition and cross-sector partnerships but also to ensure social factors are taken into account.

MaaS will play a major part in reshaping how we view and use public and private transport – both now and in the years to come. We need to get this right. We need to work together to achieve the full benefits that MaaS and multimodal transportation has to offer citizens on a global scale.

Image courtesy of Pexels

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