Our latest contributor to our Women in MaaS series is entrepreneur and mobility expert Tamy Ribeiro. A board member of sustainability organisation .aware, TEDx speaker and Chief Mobility Evangelist at Wunder Mobility, Tamy talks to us about the changes she has seen in the mobility sector, alongside the roadblocks and opportunities for MaaS.
Tamy Ribeiro – Chief Mobility Evangelist & Head of Partnerships, Wunder Mobility
How did you get started in the mobility sector?
I started in the travel industry in Brazil back in 2003, working alongside my father in the family business where I was a partner. I eventually set up my own travel company in a different state, growing it from the ground up before selling it to a company that’s now part of the biggest travel group in the Americas.
Eventually, I moved from Rio de Janeiro to Germany for a better quality of life for me and my children. That’s when I had the opportunity to work with Wunder Mobility. It’s such a dynamic environment; the team isn’t afraid to take risks. My responsibility is for partnerships and brand positioning so I work with many players in the mobility sector, including cities.
What made you want to move from the travel industry into mobility?
The challenge excited me a lot. It was a combination of a completely new market and the chance to start afresh in a new country. It has been a really great experience to learn new perspectives and to work with a young dynamic team.
While I didn’t consider it at the time, having access to safe and fast modes of transport in Germany has been a major plus. I used to spend three hours per day commuting to work in Brazil. Wunder used to be a B2C carpooling app; we worked with emerging markets in the most gridlocked cities in the world such as Manila, Mumbai, and Rio. It was an interesting turn of events!
What changes have you seen in the mobility sector during your time at Wunder?
When I joined Wunder five years ago, there was public transportation or private vehicles. That was it. Suddenly several new mobility solutions emerged. At first, cities tried to block these services until they understood that citizens wanted them. As a result, they became more flexible and brought onboard innovation managers and people to take care of data. This was a huge step change.
Cities previously offered transport services based on what they thought was right but in the past few years, they’ve completely changed their mindset. Today most cities collect and analyse data so they can make fact-based decisions about where they should invest funds.
Do you see any roadblocks to MaaS and future mobility?
Yes, definitely. We don’t have regulations in place to allow cities to have control over who is operating – and in what manner. This means they can’t force operators to join a MaaS app. The good thing is that new mobility providers mostly operate on temporary permits so if they don’t comply, cities can change providers.
There’s also the issue that operators are concerned about sharing data for fear of losing direct contact with their end-users. However, if all services aren’t included in the app, it’s not a seamless experience so it’s hard to engage users.
Another roadblock is that MaaS platforms are often specific to a certain region. For example, a commuter may work in the city but then need to travel to the suburbs where they live. Without the capability for MaaS platforms to operate across regions, this simply won’t work.
How do you think we can navigate these roadblocks?
The fastest and most efficient way to get rid of the roadblocks to MaaS and future mobility is to give cities their power back.
We need to educate and support them to move faster and not leave this to the marketplace because companies are concerned with their own interests. That’s why I think cities are the best decision-makers to define who should operate, how they should operate, and what regulations should be in place so that all mobility players offer the best service possible and report to the city.
This means sharing data to help cities understand the demand, how they can improve, what types of infrastructure they should invest in, and the vehicles their citizens use. It’s really important to create an ecosystem in which cities, operators and tech providers work closely together based on the same end goal: to improve the quality of life for citizens. It’s about being customer-centric, matching services to citizen needs and using technology and MaaS to make everyone’s life better.
What opportunities does MaaS hold?
I work with city authorities daily and they’re all considering MaaS. If they’re not yet looking for the technology, it’s because they did the research and they’re trying to solve the roadblocks before they implement it. However, progress is being made. One city I spoke to met with the state to discuss the opportunity on a wider scale. As a result, it will implement a single MaaS platform at state level, which will mean that citizens can go from one city to another without having to use different MaaS apps.
Another opportunity I see is in Europe, where several big corporations have similar goals to cities. They want to reduce CO2 emission and implement this kind of technology to take cars off the road. Car benefits will decrease with time as sustainability becomes a core topic within organisations. They were once a way to encourage employee retention or to find the best talent. This mindset is changing as people become more conscious of the environmental impact.
Companies are adopting MaaS to provide employees with shared access without the need to add cars to their fleet which sit idle, on average, 95% of the time. This allows organisations to save costs and for employees to try more sustainable options. However, it assumes mobility options are available for this to work. If it’s raining people don’t want to use an e-bike and with Coronavirus they don’t want to take the bus. Without alternatives, employees will move back to using private vehicles.
To obtain the full benefit from MaaS, it sounds as though it all starts with cities, states and governments?
Yes, and I think that’s the direction we’ll take. What delays the process is getting stakeholders to work in partnership. Sometimes cities don’t welcome new players or MaaS platforms struggle to convince operators to integrate their APIs into their platform if the city doesn’t push for that. Even when they do integrate there are issues with data collection such as APIs not sending the right information; you have to depend on operators to fix that.
It’s really about getting the whole mobility ecosystem aligned so they understand the importance of partnering and making services seamless for citizens to enjoy and keep using the app. As the final decision-makers, governments will eventually push for mobility operators, MaaS providers and all other players to focus on the needs of the end-user. That should be the primary goal.
What mobility trends do you see?
I think micromobility is here to stay. We’re seeing more companies becoming profitable such as Tier Mobility and VOI. Equally, on the car sharing front our partner Green Mobility also announced they became profitable in the middle of COVID. It’s great news that the adoption of new mobility services is on the increase. Car ownership is decreasing, on average, 10 per cent per generation and platform-based business models have grown exponentially over the past decade. This shows no signs of slowing down.
The trend that’s going on right now is cities accepting – and citizens adopting – new mobility services, with micro-mobility playing a huge role. There have been projects to stop cars going into cities, to reduce the number of parking lots and to find sustainable alternative transport modes. COVID has accelerated these initiatives alot and has helped cities to understand the importance of adopting new mobility services and creating an infrastructure to make this work.
How do you feel COVID-19 has changed our perspective on mobility?
It’s so important to use the crisis as an opportunity to learn, adapt and become more sustainable – or at least pay more attention to this topic. For cities, COVID-19 had a huge impact. We can see several mobility stakeholders moving faster now. It’s interesting to see long-term plans coming to fruition, which countries would normally take years to implement.
For example, thousands of kilometres of bike lanes were built in a few weeks during the lockdown and several sustainable mobility projects are being anticipated. We have London, Milan, Paris and even Bogotá. There are so many cities taking action to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility and this will definitely have a direct impact on how we deal with the topic and move from A to B.
During COVID-19 air quality improved and congestion decreased. Could this be a springboard for new mobility and MaaS?
We’ve never seen a drop in CO2 emissions like we did this year, but it was a great wake up call for us to rethink the way we live and work. Governments around the world are now focusing on promoting the environmental sector as a way to grow in this ‘new normal’ world. I think technology and mobility will keep playing a huge role in society but this time in a more cautious and responsible way.
The services and types of vehicles might change along with citizen needs, particularly if they don’t go to central areas any more. For example, the number of commuters may reduce, but people working from home will still want to socialise and move around. Instead of spending a couple of hours commuting, they might use that time to go to the gym or the supermarket so the route, distance and final destination might change but people will still want to get from A to B.
That’s why MaaS and mobility technology are so important. Even working from home and travelling less, people will want seamless mobility services without needing to acquire private vehicles. We need to show them that new mobility and MaaS is a way to save money – and that through technology they can have comfortable alternative transport options which also safeguard our environment.
How does your work with .aware relate to MaaS?
The idea of .aware is to bring companies together to discuss ways in which we can create a more sustainable world. It gives organisations a voice and the opportunity to spread their mission. Getting MaaS players, for example, involved in these kinds of projects – not just .aware – with sustainability as their main goal, will help to accelerate the transition to more environmentally friendly transport.
I believe mobility can have a huge impact and that’s why I’m so proud to be part of the sector. It’s one of the key drivers to change. Again, it’s all about partnerships. If we’re able to get everyone together, focus on one cause – no matter which platform is used – we can identify ways to accelerate progress. Instead of waiting for something to happen we should work together to make a real – and lasting – difference.
About Tamy Ribeiro
Tamy spent over a decade in the travel and tourism industry, owning her own company at just 22 years old, before moving to Wunder Mobility to help identify partnership and business development opportunities. Since then, she’s never looked back.
A passionate advocate of sustainable mobility, Tamy wants to see governments, cities and businesses work together to help combat issues such as congestion and air quality, creating a better life for everyone. She is a big supporter of regulatory frameworks that can adapt to fast-moving technological change in the sector.
Tamy can often be found speaking on mobility topics at various events including TedX.
Connect with Tamy on LinkedIn.