Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Advocacy and Opposition in Europe

Goodman, Henry, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Furukawa, Tomonari, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Norton, Peter, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and a drive-by-wire car are the two unseemingly interrelated topics that have been chosen for my undergraduate thesis and technical capstone project, respectively. Examining each from a technical level and a socially conscious lens has enabled me to understand both their practical makeup and their relevance to society.
Drive-by-wire is the ability to control motion subsystems automatically with a method other than human manipulation. For instance, some cars have drive-by-wire systems for cruise control and lane assistance, or any reason the car might need to throttle, brake, or steer for the user. Drive-by-wire is considered the first step towards creating an autonomous vehicle. After this, all that is necessary to create an autonomous car is a sensor system to perceive the world and a software architecture to understand its data and control the motion.
This project was accomplished by creating three separate mechatronic systems for controlling steering, throttle, and braking. Students either sent signals directly to the ECU to tell the car to create certain motions, or added an external actuator to move the components themselves (i.e. a motor to pull the brake). This project culminated in what is essentially a remote controlled car. Once the systems were verified to work, their commands were mapped to a wireless remote controller to manipulate the car’s movement.
Mobility as a Service is a phenomenon that redistributes the world’s transportation resources and allocates them based on need in a joint digital platform. This takes the form of an app where users can schedule trips on a whim via multiple modalities (i.e. car share, bus, train, bike, scooter, walking) to complete the trip most efficiently. This could provide an efficient allocation of transportation resources in a world where many cars sit unused for much of their lifetime.
The Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) STS framework was used to impartially analyze the advocacy and opposition to this issue in Europe. This framework will be discussed in further detail in the STS paper. The culmination of this analysis was a hypothesis about the future of MaaS and whether it can achieve the lofty claims of its entrepreneurs.
As scientists and engineers attempt to solve society's problems, it is important to rethink the long running systems that are currently in place. What might have made sense 100+ years ago might not work as well in our modern society. Much of the technology and infrastructure that makes up our current transportation systems have restricted the user’s right to choice. If a world is built for driving your car, it is very difficult to do anything but that. This is why MaaS is so significant. Even if it might not be an all encompassing solution to mobility problems, it is a prime example of the radical thinking necessary to make critical changes in society, and to show that they are possible to achieve.
In order to explain the link between these two topics, it is useful to first explain how this link was arrived at. In STS 4500 in the fall of 2021, students were instructed to find a high-level, general research problem that both their technical and sociotechnical research problems are subsets of. Starting with a student’s technical project, students zoomed out in scope by asking the question, “why is this worth pursuing?”
So why make a drive-by-wire car? To provide the infrastructure to make an autonomous car. Why make an autonomous car? To try to decrease the automobile accidents caused by human error, provide mobility to those without the ability to drive, and decrease carbon emissions from personal vehicle mobility. Why do we want to do these things? To improve the sustainability of personal transportation. This is now a suitable general problem statement to start focussing inward once again. How could the sustainability of personal transportation be improved? MaaS offers an alternative to personal vehicle ownership that may be cheaper, more sustainable, and more convenient for many individuals. This general research question now serves as the link between these two seemingly non-topical issues and provides a context to everything discussed on both sides of the sociotechnical spectrum.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
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