Mobility: the government wants to develop “all-in-one” digital platforms

The mobility orientation law (LOM) plans to open the sales departments of transport companies. The objective is to develop multimodal platforms that bring together all mobility offers. Thus, travelers would have the possibility to book several transports via a single application.

Wanting to get from point A to point B, open a mobile application, learn about the cheapest or fastest way to get around, then pay for the successive means of transport on this one and the same platform. In summary, being able to buy bus or metro tickets, book a VTC, self-service electric bicycles and scooters or even parking spaces with a single tool. The traveler selects the different travel modes and pays for everything in clicks. Today, these “all-in-one” digital mobility offers already exist and are developing very rapidly. The concept even has a name, “MaaS”, for “Mobility as a service”, carried in particular since 2014 by , a Finnish start-up in which the French Transdev invested from 2015 and which is mainly used in Helsinki.

In France, this kind of multimodal platform is not yet very present. Currently, while new mobility offers are multiplying, it is often necessary to switch from one application to another to combine several modes of transport. Platforms that allow comparison of travel times, such as Google Maps, do not allow direct payment. Those like Uber do not offer all the solutions, they ignore public transport and only offer services of which they are direct owners or partners.

“The user is not concerned with the authority that organizes his various modes of travel, but with the fluidity of his journey”

Extract from article 11 of the mobility bill

But this kind of platform could develop strongly from December 1, 2021 when the (LOM) entered into force last week in the Commission and whose examination in public session at the National Assembly is scheduled for June 3. Indeed, article 11 provides for public transport groups and start-ups the obligation to open their sales services to other multimodal digital operators who wish to do so. This obligation concerns both operators subsidized by the State and “other transport services open to the public”, such as those launched by start-ups for example. The text insists on the fact that MaaS is “a source of simplicity for users”, justifying that “the user is not concerned with the authority which organizes his various modes of travel, but with the fluidity of his journey” .

Monopoly risk

All is not rosy in the government project, however. Many traditional transport players are particularly concerned about the risk of monopoly or quasi-monopoly of these multimodal platforms, as is often the case in the digital world (Google as a search engine, AirBnb as an accommodation service in line or BlaBlaCar as a carpooling service). Worse still, this new service could be taken over by already existing tech giants such as Gafa or Uber, which have too much technical and commercial firepower to be challenged by young national shooters. The risk being that these giants end up imposing their own laws on traditional operators and capture ultimately a significant part of the margins. Another risk would arise directly from this disintermediation, that of the leakage of personal customer data to these tech giants, who are very greedy in this area. The risk of monopoly is all the stronger as the economic model is far from guaranteed. Indeed, the urban transport sector is often characterized by low margins, and therefore requires a significant number of transactions for the platform. American giants like Uber or Lyft are therefore well placed to position themselves in very large cities.

These risks were analyzed during the examination of the text in the Senate and answers were given: the platforms will have the obligation to propose all the offers and will thus not be able to propose only the main lines, which will avoid pressures on the profitability of operators and practices of privileges towards such or such actor; the rates charged will be those set by the operator. Finally, during the examination at the public session of the Assembly, the LREM deputy Jean-Baptiste Djebbari intends to propose an amendment requiring the platforms to obtain approval from the public authorities via specifications. So many safeguards supposed to prevent monopolistic risk. Last but not least, the Senate has made it possible to ensure that the authorities are decision-makers in asking private service providers to access their services, and not the other way around as was the case at the start of the review of the law.

For Bérangère Couillard, member of the Sustainable Development and Regional Planning Commission and LREM deputy, “the bill encourages the development of marketplaces and abandon traditional distributors. We want to prevent a private player from taking advantage of this to lower prices or make a preferential offer. In summary, operators will not be able to put their commercial interests before the interest of the user. However, above all, we want to protect innovation and in the name of free competition, we cannot prohibit any actor from starting up”.

The idea of ​​a multimodal platform is also of interest to municipalities in medium-sized towns: Mulhouse, for example, launched a mobility account in September combining public transport, car parks, bicycles and car sharing, a service in partnership with Transdev. The same project is underway in Dijon, with Keolis, a subsidiary of the SNCF. Likewise in Annemasse, where since February the RATP group has been experimenting with a similar application. Recently, finally, the SNCF, with its “door-to-door” service called Mon Chauffeur, announced its intention to make its site one of these multimodal platforms. Guillaume Pepy, the CEO of the SNCF, intends to call his new tool “”, a kind of MaaS on a national scale, in short, which will be presented on June 18th. The emergence of MaaS could therefore, de factotake place well before the application of the mobility law.

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