'Netflix of transport' may debut here

Whim - an app by MaaS Global, which was co-founded by Mr Kaj Pyyhtia - could arrive in Singapore by "late this year or early next year".
Whim - an app by MaaS Global, which was co-founded by Mr Kaj Pyyhtia - could arrive in Singapore by "late this year or early next year".ST PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH
Whim - an app by MaaS Global, which was co-founded by Mr Kaj Pyyhtia - could arrive in Singapore by "late this year or early next year".
Whim - an app by MaaS Global, which was co-founded by Mr Kaj Pyyhtia - could arrive in Singapore by "late this year or early next year".ST PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH

Finnish app could offer unlimited use of public transport for flat fee

Imagine having unlimited use of public transport - including buses, trains and bicycles - and a pre-set number of taxi rides for a flat monthly fee. This is what Whim, an app created by Finnish firm MaaS Global, hopes to offer to Singapore by "late this year or early next year", said Mr Kaj Pyyhtia, the firm's co-founder.

He was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Emerging Smart and Clean City Solutions conference, held yesterday at the Huone Events Hotel in Clarke Quay.

"An easy way to imagine it is that it's the Netflix or Spotify of transport," he said, pointing to the subscription model offered by the two entertainment services.

Launched in the Finnish capital of Helsinki in June last year, Whim - which has more than 4,000 users - allows commuters to pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited use of a variety of transport modes.

Such a model, dubbed "mobility- as-a-service", could help influence a "modal shift" in commuter behaviour and get more people to give up their cars in favour of public transportation, said Mr Pyyhtia.

Finland's Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner, who spoke at the conference, told The Straits Times: "Digital disruption is not just about technology, it's about changing processes and changing behaviour."

Both Finland and Singapore are looking for solutions that will allow for fewer cars on the road and "smoother door-to-door transport options", she said. This is something a mobility-as-a-service platform could facilitate, she added. But Ms Berner noted that it would require transport providers to share their data with other firms.

Having raised more than $16 million in funding three months ago - from investors including Toyota and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance - MaaS Global plans to introduce Whim to the British city of Birmingham next month, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands by the year end. As "one of the most developed technology and business hubs in the world", Singapore is a natural choice for the firm's expansion, said Mr Pyyhtia.

The firm hopes to expand to more than 60 cities within the next five years, and Whim has already attracted interest from the transport authorities worldwide.

A similar venture was announced here earlier this year - a collaboration between Nanyang Technological University, transport operator SMRT and JTC Corporation - which is being tested out on the NTU campus and neighbouring CleanTech Park.

But Mr Pyyhtia believes there is room for multiple players in the sector. "Transport is such a huge playing field," he said.

"We don't believe in a winner- takes-all model."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline ''Netflix of transport' may debut here'. Print Edition | Subscribe