How to modernize transport regulations

The era of Uber and other digital transport services began in Finland on July 1, 2018 when the new Transport Services Act entered into force. The process was difficult and divisive, as seen across Europe where new technologies and services are challenging the traditional transport and mobility providers. What is the role of taxis and public transport networks in the new era of ride hailing apps, shared vehicles and soon automated vehicles?

During the preparation of the Act there was a lot of debate on the impacts and risks of any changes to the old and proven taxi system: safety, reliability, availability, transparency, quality of service, fair competition, tax avoidance, but also cost efficiency and user experience that consumers have grown accustomed to in other areas of digital life. Studies were made, including from the already deregulated markets in nearby Sweden and Estonia. Lobbyists argued both sides. But in the end, nobody knew what exactly would happen.

Reporters went to interview drivers and customers. One showed a huge number of terminals and phones, dedicated to different services, filling up his car. Another said that customers are now afraid to order a taxi because the price can now vary. Some explained how a simultaneous change reduced availability in the separately regulated healthcare transport and prevented cancer patients from going to the hospital. Consumers tried to calculate the best deal among different taxis with varying fixed prices or starting prices and kilometer prices. Some tried bargaining, leading to an angry reaction from the driver. Others started wondering how many applications they have to install.

Traffic and urban planners were thinking whether the previously debated risks or benefits would be realized, how mobility behaviors would change and what would happen to bus and other public transport usage. Collecting statistics and making occasional user surveys takes time, and it is difficult to identify causes and effects just from annual statistics and surveys.

Now imagine that the MoTiV app would have been in use in Finland. The impact of the new Transport Services Act, or any new service coming to the market for that matter, would be immediately seen. Did people start to use different ways to go to places? Was it better than the old ways? Were they able to do useful things during the trip? Did they feel stressed before or during the trip? Such very specific contextual data would allow traffic and urban planners to determine whether and how the change increased or decreased the value of travel time, for whom and for which trips. This would be a very powerful tool to provide immediate feedback to politicians who could fine tune the new legislation to maximize the overall value.

The MoTiV app will be available from the beginning of 2019 in 10 European countries. If any of them are contemplating significant changes to their transport systems as Finland did, they will soon have a tool that helps them select the best options for the consumers and the society at large.

MoTiV Project

Project Coordinator: University of Žilina, Slovakia
Comms & Web management: European Cyclists’ Federation ASBL