In Helsinki, it will soon be cheaper–and arguably more convenient–to subscribe to a new “mobility service” than own a car. If you need to go somewhere, you pull up a new app, which calculates the best way to get there–public transit, a bike-share bike, taxi, a rental car, or a combination. Instead of buying individual tickets, you pay a monthly fee of €249.
“The way we see it, the current transportation system doesn’t really work at all,” says Kaj Pyyhtiä, CXO and co-founder of MaaS Global, the company making the new app, called Whim. (MaaS stands for mobility as a service, a concept the company has been pioneering for the last decade.)
Like most cities, Helsinki already suffers from gridlock, and the population is growing; if every new resident drove, the problem would get worse. The city also wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. By 2025, it wants to make the city center car-free. The new app–which wasn’t funded by the city, but created in collaboration with it–could help make that happen.
It’s also intended to be a better experience than other transportation options. “The reason behind Whim, and why we are doing this, is not just based on environmental or logistics facts,” says Pyyhtiä. “The way we see it is that consumers actually are in need of a better choice . . . as a whole, there hasn’t been anybody really giving the true solution to freedom of mobility.”
Users can choose to link their calendars with the app, so routes will be planned in advance. With each trip, it’s possible to make a choice of transport mode based on what’s cheapest or greenest or most convenient–or mood.
“Travel is actually not actually as logical as everybody who plans for solutions thinks it is,” he says. “Because the users of traffic or transportation are us, humans. So what we want to achieve is brilliant user experience.”
Over time, the app may offer personalized mobility packages. It will be able to learn that on a rainy morning you’d rather take an Uber, and have that ready. If it’s rush hour and roads are packed, it will suggest the mode of transportation that will get you to a meeting on time.
The app is currently in beta testing with users in Helsinki, and will launch to the public there early in 2017. The company also recently announced a U.K. launch, and is in talks with several cities in North America.
They’re also working with car companies. “I think as a what’s maybe most interesting about mobility as a service now is that even the giants have woken up, meaning that this is not going to be niche,” says Pyyhtiä. “Car manufacturers…see mobility as a service for the future. They understand that car ownership is on the decline.”