Guess what’s getting old? Using your own car to travel from one place to another. Becoming increasingly popular instead are car-/ride-sharing/-pooling services and using multiple modes of transportation. Today’s mobility, says William El Kaim, founder/consultant of enterprise architecture Digital Codex, a consulting firm specializing in enterprise architecture integration and commerce (eacodex.com), “is about seamless travel using all of the various modes of transportation available rather than relying solely on one transportation mode.”
Welcome to mobility as a service (MaaS), the concept and computerized system that makes such seamless travel possible. MaaS puts the whole spectrum of transportation modes at a person’s fingertips, which is an enticing proposition that also diminishes the supremacy of car ownership. This belies the current trend among millennials and city dwellers, which is to eschew individual car ownership. That, in turn, increases the need for car/ride/bike-share services, mass transit (both publicly and privately financed), and, at least temporarily, more vehicles (and vehicle fleets).
All this, ironically, leads to the need for some better, overarching personalized coordination of those transportation modes. Namely, the need for MaaS—and software for modeling, simulating, operating and controlling MaaS.
MaaS to the rescue
Cities “are very much interested in seeing the impact of future automotive inventions in the city landscape,” says Shaleen Srivastava, vice president (Traffic) North America for PTV Group (ptvgroup.com). Automakers, obviously, are less interested in the city landscape, says Srivastava. But they are interested in testing their vehicle designs—both conventional and autonomous vehicles—in a virtual city. “We create virtual cities with real-world traffic in a virtual environment,” explains Srivastava. OEMs can input whatever they want—autonomous cars, designs, components, even algorithms—and test them across millions of traveled miles overnight—granted virtual miles—rather than test those items across physical miles driven over many years of actual travel.
Automakers are also keenly focused on fleet management and fleet operations. MaaS helps automakers simulate effective business models for their fleets, based on a specific city model and accounting for such factors as vehicle utilization and types. MaaS answers such questions as vehicle fleet size, the location of electric micro-cars for hourly or daily rental, the vehicle sizes for on-demand private shuttle services and pricing models.
Management and engineering consultants use MaaS to help city governments create the business case for running transportation services, as well as determining future needs. For example, what is the business model for running municipality vehicles ranging from garbage trucks to building inspection to child- and elder-care services to law enforcement?
What’s in MaaS software?
The MaaS Accelerator Program from PTV Group contains four fundamental software tools:
1. PTV MaaS Modeler is primarily for cities to plan ahead using current public, private and commercial mobility services, including personal-use cars, public transportation, taxi services, on-demand micro-transit (i.e., ride- and bike-share), and fleet services. Automakers use MaaS Modeler to determine such factors as fleet size under varying levels of customer demand; vehicle size; the optimization of vehicles running empty; and the location of charge points for fully electric cars (autonomous or not). The software models and reports on fleet operational performance, models multimodal traffic system performance and analyzes traffic congestion and tradeoffs between other modes of transport.
2. PTV MaaS Simulator analyzes the operation of the mobility-services plan out of MaaS Modeler. MaaS Simulator generates detailed visualizations of mobility scenarios within a city, taking into account autonomous vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and public transport. Planners can optimize traffic patterns by simulating vehicle characteristics and dynamics; drop-off, pick-up and interchange points; network-wide traffic control; connected vehicles and infrastructure; and the interactions between various modes of transportation, including autonomous vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.
3. PTV MaaS Operator handles the real-time operation of multimodel MaaS-fleets, based on the operational designs and plans determined by MaaS Modeler and MaaS Simulator. MaaS Operator optimizes the trips and capacities of individual vehicles related to the infrastructure and traffic data of the city. Operators can optimize transportation dispatching/routing in real-time; predict real-time traffic using advanced routing algorithms; centrally coordinate real-time mobility operations, trip requests, vehicle assignments and occupancy, and system efficiency; centrally monitor waiting times; and facilitate data warehousing for analyzing and optimizing MaaS-related systems.
4. PTV MaaS Controller acts like a city’s “operating system.” The software lets city managers not only operate, but actually control the flow of mobility services. Managers gain real-time control of connected transport and related hardware, which leads to better traffic prediction and both traffic-light and route optimization, automated control of traffic, and fleet management.
For automakers, MaaS is a comprehensive tool to help understand what advanced technologies are needed in future vehicles, such as bidirectional communications that go well beyond today’s telematics systems and, points out Srivastava, the reliance on artificial intelligence in autonomous vehicles. MaaS will be also analyzing and converting all this mobility data into actionable mobility management and control. Moreso, MaaS will also by managing the scheduling, reservation and billing of those vehicles and vehicle fleets.
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