Do you really want your mobility on a whim?

15 touko 2017
Milos Mladenovic

A reflection on the questions of MaaS scalability


Somewhere on planet Earth, a human wonders.  

This traffic is not moving at all. This is horrible!

Those damn transport engineers! Why cannot they figure this out and solve congestion?! It is 2017! We should be having flying cars by now…

How was that thing called again? MaaS? Anyway, it would certainly be great to have it now. I could just take a taxi ride, and perhaps manage to reply some of those emails from this week.

Why are we not having that already?! We can certainly figure out all the necessary data integration. Most of our systems across the city are going digital anyway.

In one click, I could choose my trips. Then I could just use the system whenever I want and however I want. And then I just get a bill at the end of the month.

That would make my life so much easier. And I bet all my friends would love to have the same thing. Simply, on-demand transport service.

Hmm… Wait a second. If all my friends join in, that might be quite good. But what if a lot of people joins in? Or even all the people?

At that scale, how will the system make sure that we all get the service that we need in that particular moment? As I am traveling to work, there are also a lot of people who are traveling to work. And at the same time there are people traveling to school, to the airport, to the grocery store, to see a friend, or who knows where else. There might be even a person going to the hospital because of a broken leg or because she is having a baby.

That is a lot of people with so many different needs. And some other day, their needs might be completely different. Just as some other morning I might be having one of those meetings that start sharp at 9.

Then, what about traffic? Certainly telecomm network has a bit of different properties from traffic network? I mean, is it that easy to linearly add more bandwidth just like in the Internet networks? And Internet has routing protocols that determine how data moves across the network. Is that even possible for traffic?   

In addition, I remember reading somewhere that traffic networks have a certain maximum value of traffic that they can sustain before getting into congestion. And I remember that going into congestion is much easier as opposed to going out of congestion. So those dynamics certainly complicate the situation. 

Perhaps this is not as easy as it seems. If we have all those people with different needs, that all want all to travel at the same time without much thinking about their mobility, will it be possible that everybody gets a promised service?

Certainly, it will be quite difficult to accomplish this without delaying and routing some people on the network? And who is to determine that some of us will arrive on time while some will have to be delayed?

Then, what if not all the people join the system? There might be some people who cannot afford to pay for this service. And if we do not know their travel requests, how can we account them in traffic predictions?

Hmm… This seems more complex than I imagined. No wonder why we don’t have the system at scale yet.

Anyway, why am I worrying about this? Certainly, there has to be someone responsible who is thinking about the same things?

Somewhere on planet Earth, a human waits in congestion, while staring at the sea.



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