The entire transportation industry from public transit to car manufacturers agrees on one thing: there will be a drastic drop in the private ownership of cars in the next five years. There are many reasons for this change, but the biggest ones are urbanization, service proliferation and changes in values. The young generation is not so interested in tying themselves down with things and values freedom more than ownership.
However, the need to go from point A to B has not gone anywhere. This market niche is filled by MaaS Global’s application Whim that offers a mobility package for a monthly fee, combining taxi services, car rental, and public transportation. The term MaaS is short for Mobility as a Service.
“We have a clear target: our service wants to be a replacement for cars rather than an extension of public transportation”, says MaaS Global CTO Sami Pippuri. “Our initial target group consists of urbane, youngish, working people who do not consider car ownership necessary but sometimes want a more comfortable mode of travel than public transportation.”
The service will initially be launched in Finland, but the company’s plans are global. Last autumn, Whim was opened to a small test group in the Helsinki region, and the application will be released for the general public in the next few weeks. The service will initially focus on the Capital Region.
“We hope that this will become a Finnish thing and that people will not hesitate to try the service out and join in its development”, Pippuri says.
HIGH DEMAND IN THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET
The hype around MaaS Global has been awe-inspiring. In addition to the Finnish media, the company has received positive coverage from international quality publications such as the Economist, Guardian and New York Times. Even the first international market was offered to the company on a plate. Next spring, Whim will be launched in the area of Birmingham, England.
“The local public transportation provider had invited all major local transit operators to the same table. They needed someone to link these services together and contacted us”, Pippuri says. “Our product has been developed for the international market from the ground up, and this case was right for us in every way.”
Birmingham is a good target for expansion since the area’s extensive public transportation offering is technologically modern enough, the region’s demographic structure is favorable for the service and the local players have a firm ambition to effect change.
While its service is being ramped up in the Helsinki region and adapted to the conditions of Birmingham and the UK, MaaS Global is pushing on with talks in Asia and North America as well as Europe. There is demand everywhere.
EVERYTHING RESTS ON THE USER EXPERIENCE
For an application like Whim to succeed, using it must be more convenient than owning a car. It must be able to cover the entire travel process from planning to buying tickets and looking up the route, it needs to have clear monthly package prices and, more than anything, it must be extremely easy to use.
“All of the companies connected by Whim have their own systems and various EULAs, and making everything available to the user as simply as possible and with the minimum number of clicks is a challenge”, Pippuri says. “Whim is a premium service, so the expectations of our users and, naturally, our own targets are set extremely high.”
Services usually collect user-specific data for personalizing the product to serve each user optimally. For Whim, this data collection has posed a challenge, since its users seem to have many different personalities that change with the day of the week and time of day.
“Our customers have a week-me and weekend-me, a morning and evening me, all of whom behave differently”, Pippuri says. “Indeed, our next technical challenge is finding a way to properly anticipate the wishes of our users and proactively provide them with great experiences.”