Helsinki is poised to become the number one smart transport city in the world. The Mobility as a Service model, or MaaS, is already known around the world as the ‘Helsinki model’. In the MaaS model, the consumer can purchase all the transport services that they need for a single monthly fee.

“Once self-driving cars really take off, car ownership will eventually become a hobby. The same thing happened to horses a hundred years ago,” says Sampo Hietanen, CEO of the Helsinki-based MaaS Global startup.

The market for smart transport is massive

MaaS Global’s Whim application is currently available to residents of Helsinki and Birmingham. The application is based on differently priced monthly plans, which provide users with the amount of transport services that they need, from public transport to taxis and rental cars.

The transportation sector is currently undergoing a transformation as a result of self-driving cars and smart transport services. The market for smart transport is massive. This development has also been recognised by major automobile manufacturers, which are actively investing in smart transport startups. The most recent company to invest in Maas Global was Toyota.

“The stage is now set for Finland and Helsinki. This is where the viability of the new transport market will be proven. It’s all based on an open ecosystem that facilitates the transfer and use of data to create new services,” says Hietanen.

What should cities do?

How can cities and companies benefit the most from the transformation of transport? Hietanen lists the three most important factors:

  1. Open up all transport services and APIs to serve as a foundation for innovation.
  2. Create incentives for consumers to facilitate the creation of a smart transport market.
  3. Start planning for the future now.

In Hietanen’s opinion, the cities of the future will be based on transport hubs similar to the Kamppi Centre in Helsinki, which provide residents with convenient access to all the transport services that they need. These hubs will be open, allowing new transport companies and their innovations to easily enter the market.

The City of Helsinki’s innovation unit, Forum Virium Helsinki, contributed to the birth of MaaS Global by bringing together companies’ and the City organisation’s smart transport operators. Forum Virium Helsinki aims to build Helsinki into the most functional smart city in the world in collaboration with companies, the scientific community and residents.

”Forum Virium Helsinki was a tremendous help for us. The transport ecosystem business involves a lot of different parties, which all have to work together according to a shared vision. Forum Virium brought the right parties together, enabled, facilitated and got the ball rolling,” Hietanen says.