Northern Automotive Alliance (NAA) join the TravelSpirit Foundation

We are proud to announce the joining of NAA to the TravelSpirit Foundation. This is part of a new ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative, called the ConcentriCity Alliance. The alliance has been to apply of the joint expertise of Northern Robotics Network, Northern Automotive Alliance, Transport for The North and Tech North members to strengthen the UK’s commercialisation capability in the area of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

This new collaborative partnership is helping NAA members gain access to the latest information and networks surrounding the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) market opportunity for the automotive sector. It provides an ideal platform for the automotive and digital communities to build stronger relationships and collaborations on MaaS.

NAA’s membership of the foundation has added a new capability and breadth of knowledge for the TravelSpirit Community. It will improve community relations with the automotive supply chain that will help develop best of breed New Mobility Service businesses. This will also help fully exploit the opportunities that connected and autonomous vehicles can bring to the Mobility as a Service market.

NAA is a wholly independent, not-for-profit organisation providing support for all companies within the automotive sector in the North West of England & Yorkshire. In addition to business support and provision of funding, it provides development and participation support to UK public-private sector R&D consortia. The NAA has both technical, project and contract management of large scale projects through ERDF & AMSCI as well as Innovate UK collaborative R&D projects.

Alstom step towards MaaS-on-rail, through acquisition of Nomad Digital

TravelSpirit Foundation ‘gold medalist’ partner, Alstom, have acquired Nomad Digital to strengthen their capability to help the rail industry migrate to Mobility as a Service. Nomad Digital employs around 230 people, and is headquartered in Newcastle (UK), with 13 offices worldwide, principally in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Australia and the United States. Its turnover represents more than GBP 30 million.

Nomad Digital, founded in 2002 in the United Kingdom, is a world leading provider of passenger and fleet connectivity solutions to the railway industry. Nomad Digital’s solutions include passenger WiFi, innovative Passenger Information Systems and on-board passenger portals, entertainment and media platforms. Nomad Digital’s is an ideal position to fully leverage the integration and convergence of both Rail and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) required to enable the MaaS revolution in an industry now ripe for disruption [more detail].

For more information on the MaaS Challenge for Rail – led by our CEO, Alex Burrows please read here.

MaaS Global make in-roads into the UK

TravelSpirit ‘gold’ affiliates MaaS Global and Transport for West Midlands have made a significant in-road to raising the MaaS agenda in the UK, through the signing of an ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between MaaS Global and the West Midlands Combined Authority, National Express, SilverRail and Birmingham City Council; which commits all signed parties to develop Mobility as a Service (MaaS) in the West Midlands, with a plan to launch MaaS Global’s Whim app in the West Midlands metropolitan area in early 2017. Pre-registrations to use Whim in Birmingham can be made on by clicking here.

TravelSpirit appoints new CTO, sparking transatlantic relations

We’re proud to announce the arrival of our new CTO, Jeremy Dalton. Jeremy is the principal and founder of Method City Planning, a Portland-based consultancy that supports the planning and implementation of multi­modal transportation projects and initiatives in the United States. He hits the ground-running, having been working, as a TravelSpirit Project Board member over the summer, where he has already established good links between the UK and United States community transport associations (CTAUK and CTAA), and championing the incubation of Portland borne RidePilot onto the TravelSpirit Open Source Platform. Click here to read Jeremy’s recent blog on CTAUK. Finally we’d like to thank Rob Taylor, our out-going CTO, for his successful leadership in his role here at TravelSpirit Foundation – over-seeing the development of our organisations technical governance structure and successful launch in the UK. We wish Rob every success in his next full-on enterprise at Reconfigure.io.

Lyft helps educate major U.S. cities about the end of the road of private car ownership – by 2025

“America is running a failing transportation business”, says John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft. While Mobility as a Service is already buzzing around Europe and the UK, other countries are beginning to ‘wake-up and smell the coffee’. With a call to action for U.S. cities to think differently about the opportunities ahead for how their cities could develop in a new shared-car economy, the TravelSpirit Community is beginning to grow in the United States – starting with Portland, Oregon. More to follow on this soon…meanwhile to read more from John Zimmer, go to his article here.

Chair of TravelSpirit engages the global open source community

Our Chair, and Senior Innovation Officer @TfGM, Si Ho, has addressed to the opensource.com community in an article on open source.com. The opensource.com community has a keen interest in  creating, adopting, and sharing open source solutions and learning about how the open source way is improving technologies, education, business, government, health, law, entertainment and humanitarian efforts. Supported by Red Hat (the world’s leading provider of open source, enterprise IT solutions), more than 60% of Opensource.com content is contributed by members of open source communities, such as TravelSpirit. Other articles on the website are written by the editorial team and other Red Hat contributors.

TravelSpirit Affiliates Trailblaze on the Smart City

…by open-sourcing the what3words addresses of all of Greater Manchester’s ‘Talkative’ Bus Stops ! TravelSpirit Partners BT, Republic of Things and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) are starting to motor on their ‘Use Case’ development phase for Manchester’s smart cities demonstrator.

The CityVerve project is set to redefine the “smart” in “smart city” – by building and delivering a needs-driven, benefit-led, ‘platform of platforms’ Internet of Things infrastructure…

…within the ambition of Cityverve there is some good alignment with TravelSpirit: while the (Cityverve) project is not entirely open-source, it supports open innovation, and a number of use-cases that are led by TravelSpirit Partners, who are promoting Open-Source and Open-API’s throughout their work on the project.

For example, TravelSpirit affiliate tech start up, Republic of Things, is leading on the use case called ‘Talkative Bus Stops’.

From ‘flag and pole’ to interactive locations, we are rethinking the bus stop, to reflect and enrich the environment and communities in which they are located. Through the use of technology, including location based services and mobile apps, the bus stops will deliver location relevant content.

People will have the ability to ‘check-in’ to their bus stop, to let bus operators know they are waiting for their service, and where they want to get to, leading to a more responsive service and enhanced travel experience.

To get going, TravelSpirit has taken Transport for Greater Manchester’s open data and, with the What3Words API (free to use by non-commercial organisations), fuse the datasets to open-source the What3Words address for every bus stop in Greater Manchester…

Visit our new Gitlab to download the new dataset and find out more about What3Words. We don’t know exactly, at this stage, how useful this dataset is, so look forward to seeing what the community can do with it.

And, if you aren’t so sure about the open-source credentials of What3Words, don’t let that put you off our challenge.We’d be equally happy to see what you can do with alternative address systems such as Xaddress, GeoHash, What3Emojis or even What3Pokemon!

TfGM and BT will be releasing some more exciting stuff soon into the open, on another, yet to be revealed, use case – so watch this space.

The CityVerve project was established in July 2016 with a two-year remit to demonstrate the capability of IoT applications and address barriers to deploying smart cities, such as city governance, network security, user trust and adoption, interoperability, scalability and justifying investment. Combining technology and business model innovations, it will create a real-life blueprint for smart cities worldwide.

The consortium of 21 organisations – including Manchester City Council, Manchester Science Partnerships, the University of Manchester, Cisco, BT and other tech players – is backed by Government and Innovate UK.

For more information, please visit www.cityverve.org.uk or follow CityVerve on Twitter at @CityVerve

Mercedes lead the way on imagining the future role of bus within a MaaS landscape

What if a bus driver could spend his time helping his passengers, rather than driving the bus? This is the kind of market development innovation Mercedes-Benz are keen to get the UK bus industry to focus on, and plan for, in terms of fleet procurement strategies, in the light of the opportunities being presented by technology that will be ready over 2020-2025 to provide full automation of driving a vehicle on public roads. For more information see this article in the UK’s ‘Business Insider’.

Mobility as a Service: Don’t fragment the marketplace

Carplus Bikeplus in Local Transport Today

‘Mobility as a Service’ or MaaS is the most important disruptor of transport today. It’s easy to dismiss this as hype, but, in its recent report for the DfT, the Transport Systems Catapult outlines ‘A future in which people buy bundles of mobility services from Mobility as a Service (MaaS) providers’. MaaS is exciting stuff as it represents a complete change in our personal relationship with transport in which – in its most radical form – we buy mobility in multi-modal bundles accessed via smartphones.

Shared mobility is integral to MaaS, and for this reason Carplus and Bikeplus have a strong interest in shaping the MaaS agenda. MaaS could facilitate travel lifestyles in which people can tailor their transport to the moment, hopping from bus to train, travelling the last mile on a bike share bike, finding a shared car driving the return portion and using car club cars at the weekend. Individuals could set their travel budgets on a month by month basis and no longer sink costs into a privately owned car (or indeed an annual rail ticket).

This vision suddenly creates a viable alternative to car ownership for many more people. The mega-trend shift from owning stuff to buying services means that the next transport revolution is not a mode, but flexible services packaged digitally.

So what?

Research by Carplus, Bikeplus and others over the years has shown consistently that providing attractive alternatives to car ownership in the form of car clubs, ride sharing and bike sharing reduces the number of miles driven per year and the transport carbon footprint of users. These options are increasingly attractive to younger people who aspire less and less to own cars. In larger cities, there are shifts in travel behaviour away from private car ownership as well. With this evidence, we see MaaS as, potentially, the catalyst that kicks the scale of these changes into another league.

It’s for this reason that Carplus and Bikeplus are actively involved in TravelSpirit. As a not-for-profit association guided by a set of public benefit goals and objectives, TravelSpirit provides a progressive forum to pose the important questions that can get lost in the enthusiasm for the technologies of MaaS.

We are particularly interested in the wider considerations of where and how shared transport fits in to MaaS development, what can be learnt from shared transport to accelerate MaaS development, and how to make sure that social and environmental benefits are embedded from the outset.

The vision for TravelSpirit is that all assets are held in the ‘global commons’, curated by TravelSpirit through open governance and open collaboration between parties, enabled by Open Source Initiative and Creative Commons approved licencing. It is supported by a new Community Interest Company, ‘Public Software’ which has been created to provide legal and financial services to TravelSpirit, and other European OpenSource projects. (These are similar in function to the Linux and Mozilla Foundations support for more advanced open source communities.)

TravelSpirit works at all levels: the open source coding, the digital tech sector, data supply chains, transport operators (public transport, leasing, shared mobility) and for local communities, cities and nation states.

Along side the enabling power of new technology, changes in public and private sector involvement in shaping transport unlock the potential of MaaS. MaaS leads to a marketplace of transport providers, and there is uncertainty around how the marketplace will develop. Whilst our research indicates that shared transport benefits environment and society, the likely scale and reach of MaaS means that we need to be vigilant in shaping its outcomes.

We therefore welcome the open ethos of TravelSpirit in helping to contribute to these debates.
Whilst debating how MaaS develops in the UK, and who will shape its outcomes, we can look for international role models and learn from them.

In Finland the Whim app, one of the world’s first fully integrated multimodal transport apps allows users to plan their route and purchase their tickets for bus, train, bike, taxi or car travel.
It operates across all of Finnish cities and public transport networks and the company has signed up all Finland’s rail and city public transport companies and has an agreement with car hire company Sixt. The app offers subscription service or pay-as-you-go options, which gives users access to a hire car.

It is this integration which is the holy grail of open access. Creating a service which allows access to the broadest selection of travel options is surely the best way to ensure an attractive alternative to car ownership.

However, MaaS is growing in dense urban areas, whilst accessibility challenges are often outside these urban cores. We do not want to see a future in which provision is dense and competitive in populous areas and absent outside those. A scenario in which proprietary platforms compete with each other for total domination of the transport sector is likely to lead to the disenfranchisement of local communities and local transport operators – increasing the gulf between the transport rich and the transport poor.

It is therefore essential that the app platforms in development are open source and open to all transport providers.

Sampo Hietanen, founder of MaaS Global and the Whim app, supported the launch of TravelSpirit and called for a healthy competition in the market they are entering:

“Rather than aiming for a ‘winner takes all’ position within the industry, MaaS Global are promoting a ‘roaming ecosystem’ of MaaS operators; who would, together, cover the market for a diverse range of spatial contexts and customer segments.

This approach requires an open approach to the supporting ‘back-office’ infrastructure; hence MaaS Global’s support for TravelSpirit.”

Whilst establishing a broad framework, TravelSpirit is currently concentrating its efforts in Manchester and Birmingham. A range of organisations are involved, including the Department for Transport, Transport for Greater Manchester, Alstom, along with global partners MaaS Global and La Fabrique des Mobilitiés who have already helped ‘crowd-fund’ the launch of TravelSpirit. In addition, at its launch in Manchester, participants at the design workshop ‘crowd-sourced’ their collective expertise to provide the world thought leadership on how best to enable a MaaS revolution.

Although TravelSpirit is a positive step towards open source and open access development, the risks that we could end up with a fragmented offer, are real. In its recent report on MaaS Transport Systems Catapult notes emerging disparate apps:

“There are many existing examples of businesses securing a position across the transport operator, data provider and MaaS provider layers of the ecosystem. For example, Uber’s taxi-based MaaS offering, or alternatively the train operating companies and carshare enterprises that provide apps for their passengers’ use.”

In addition, experimentation by vehicle manufacturers looking for market models that meet people’s emerging preferences for ‘access over ownership’ is adding to the diversity of smartphone based travel booking platforms. And Transport Systems Catapult notes that other players from outside the transport sector may yet enter the field – any number of media, retail or telecom companies (from Google to Amazon) could partner with transport companies to create new structures.

With this in mind, we believe it’s urgent and important that open source frameworks are developed so that travellers do not get locked into fragmented service provision and always have access to the best, most flexible and cost effective means of transport.

Given the success of Whim in Finland, we are encouraged that it is supporting TravelSpirit and we will follow developments in Manchester with interest.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) hits the UK press

Today two notable UK publications released articles about Mobility as a Service. Local Transport Today has led with a story on “Mobility as a Service: don’t fragment the marketplace”, which features our partner, Carplus passionately advocating the approach taken to date by the rapidly growing TravelSpirit community. Click here for a snippet of the article, that you’ll need to read by finding a printed copy of the LTT. At the same time, The Independent has led with a story on “How owning a car might soon become as old-fashioned as owning a horse“, which features DriveNow, a partnership between BMW, which provides the cars, and Sixt, which brings the understanding of how to rent them to people. So, onwards, and upwards…