Mobility in China is getting more comfortable. Source: Shutterstock

Mobility in China is getting more comfortable. Source: Shutterstock

China dives into MaaS with Didi following in Meituan’s footsteps

MOBILITY AS A SERVICE (MaaS) is an exciting new trend that companies such as Uber and Lyft have been exploring since last year.

Recently, the trend made its way to China, with Meituan Dianping and AutoNavi opening up their platforms to competing ride-hailing cab providers and cab dispatchers in a bid to expand their operations and make life simpler for users in the country.

Now, Didi app users will be able to do the same — initially starting with a pilot in the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan province where users have been provided with the option to hail cabs operated by travel platform Tongcheng’s ride-hailing arm Miaozao.

According to local media, this capability is a step towards becoming a super app — but in line with global trends, it also indicates a strong push towards leading players charging towards becoming the leading MaaS platform in China.

MaaS essentially provides customers with multi-modal mobility solutions, be it bike and scooter sharing, bus bookings, cab-hailing, or even car-sharing. Everything a customer needs to get from point A to point B, especially within city limits, should be on the leading MaaS providers platform.

In the US, for example, Uber is working on integrating public transportation options such as buses and trains (with timings, routes, and fares) into its app under the banner “transit”.

The San Francisco-based company is trialing the feature in Denver, Colorado, but expects to scale it up to support users across the country in the (very) near future.

Convergence will fuel the next wave of convenience

It’s easy to see why MaaS is becoming such an important concept when you think about the convenience it offers to customers. People can make informed decisions about how they want to travel and when they need to get to their destination.

With the rise of autonomous cars and busses (such as the Volvo trial in Singapore), there will be new and exciting opportunities for players that can build the platform and have the users.

Car manufacturers such as USA’s Ford, China’s Geely and Germany’s BMW are all evaluating a future where their vehicles are provided as a service instead of as a product. They’re all also currently exploring their own car-sharing or ride-hailing apps.

In the future, with MaaS, they won’t need to worry about acquiring users and users won’t have to register on multiple apps. Didi or Uber, whatever they use, can simply provide them the option to hail an autonomous taxi or limousine to take them to their destination.

The rise of super apps such as Didi and Meituan in China, especially with a loyal user base, will really help accelerate the automaker’s journey to autonomous service providers by making new-age vehicles more accessible, quick to trial, easy to use, and in the long-run, more convenient.