Smart traffic and mobility as a service will make our daily life more comfortable, easy, carefree and ecological.
If mobility as a service seemed an unfamiliar concept a year ago, that is not the case today. It has become the next big thing. KutsuPlus service in Helsinki has gained much deserved attention. Foreign Policy magazine ranked Sonja Heikkilä, M.Sc., who works in the City Planning Department of Helsinki, among the hundred most important thinkers in the world. Heikkilä believes that the use of private vehicles can be made more sensible when mobility as a service can function smoothly and easily through one application.
New kinds of business operations and professions
Mobility as a service and smart traffic solutions could actually be Finland’s next export hits. We could develop new kinds of business operations and also export them abroad. The time is right. Technological development has advanced far enough, and there are signs of demand. Urbanisation and climate change assist the change in traffic culture.
Innovations are expected of us. “Finland is already considered a pioneer in developing mobility services, and Finland has also sparked the interest of international companies as a test laboratory of these services,” praises Petri Launonen, Director of Traffic and logistics at Sito.
“Finland has been profiled as a hatchery of start-ups, and we are known for positive innovation buzz. We now need more agile financing solutions to take the innovations further,” says Director Mia Nykopp from the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi.
Finland is a good test laboratory for various pilot projects as our country offers both a relatively densely populated capital region and sparsely populated regions with long distances between towns. There is a strong vision for experiments. Regional requirements and challenges also vary greatly so various kinds of solutions are needed. New kinds of services can be innovated together with customers, partners, IT companies and start-ups, for example.
Traffic as a field will be renewed to a great extent and it will require a new kind of a knowledge profile: “We need more comprehensive architectural know-how, spokespersons for issues related to data and digitalisation, service design, transport chain know-how, and environmental technology expertise. That will also create new professions,” says Mia Nykopp. “For example, pilots for unmanned aircraft and algorithm gurus will be trained for automatic traffic in the future.”
Information available to everyone
Mobility as a service cannot be developed by any one party alone. It requires a lot of cooperation and projects that support each other. New kinds of services are innovated in Tekes’ joint programme not only for the mobility of people but also of goods and information both at long distances and locally. The data and service system of smart traffic will be implemented as an open ecosystem for the first time ever in the world.
Plenty of information is required for creating new kinds of services, which according to Petri Launonen already exists for the most part but is scattered and difficult to use as such. “It must be possible to gather information and analyse it into open data so that services can be developed on top of the information,“ he says. “The development of services depends largely on the market so it is vital to have a proper development platform,” he continues.
“Sito’s information services bring information assembled from various sources effectively for all to benefit from. The objective is to be involved in creating an open innovation environment together with other operators and customers in which traffic data, for example, is available to new service developers. A real-time traffic snapshot furthers the smart and effective use of the transport system and enables the creation of new traffic services,” says Deputy Head of Department Noora Salonen.
Everyone has a task
The development of the market based on mobility as a service requires input from everyone. Everyone must pull together on a large front. Each party has their own role. “It is a team effort. The initial situation is created together: information capital, action interfaces between operators, common rules, and positive enthusiasm towards the operation. As a traffic authority, Trafi’s role is to ensure on their part that the necessary interfaces for operators, technology and communication exist and that they have been openly specified and implemented. Trafi must also ensure that there is constant trust in the information so that citizens dare to adopt the services,” summarises Mia Nykopp.
The role of an authority as an enabler and enforcer of operation is also emphasised by Advisor Asta Tuominen from the Mobility services and smart traffic unit of the Finnish Transport Agency. “Naturally, at the start of service development, authorities are also there to support the service development.” A good example of this is the Liikennelabra project.
The role of an innovator of new services and a developer of business operations is held by a large number of service providers.
In fact, mobility as a service is not a thing of the distant future. Naturally, many services that make transport easier for Finns have already been developed and are in use. Asta Tuominen mentions the navigation applications of public transport as a good example that are based on real-time information on traffic. “More extensive renewals in the traffic system require a longer time, and many innovations are yet to be carried out, but a lot of work that makes mobility easier can already be done today,” Asta Tuominen points out.
Mia Nykopp points out that everyone can have an effect. “The optimisation of people’s daily mobility is a key issue. It plays an important role in everyone’s life, and changing the culture of daily mobility is a great challenge. It is difficult to perceive the totality that is composed of small parts. Therefore, I would encourage every one of use to keep a log, for example for a week, of all of our movement from one place to another, including related costs. That would help you see the forest for the trees and make out your routine, and then consider whether it can be optimised or developed in any way.”
Text: Dakota Lavento