Efforts to add advanced mobility solutions on either side of the Atlantic continue to take slow steps, but in different ways…
For mobility applications and services to help improve a person’s travel experience and reduce emissions, regulation and technology must come to terms. Legislators around the USA are reacting en masse to the demand of the consumer for increased digital data privacy. What once was limited to the California Consumer Privacy Act passed in 2018 is now joined with a patchwork of proposed laws throughout various US states in 2021.
Similar to the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), data privacy regulation typically adds a requirement for transparency, data minimisation, and integrity. Generally, businesses who process data for specific purposes can easily follow these requirements. What has posed a more significant challenge is the value that personal data can create in the aggregate, as well as instances where data must pass across jurisdictional lines.
The USA continues to lag behind the EU in both purposeful and sustainability-centric transportation policy. Connected and autonomous vehicle leadership has been lacking from the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). The USDOT’s sustainability website was last updated in 2018, whereas the EU has developed and published a significant sustainable transport theme intended to reduce emissions and improve accessibility and affordability.
In the USA, mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) is a distant dream that is currently being attempted via a bottom-up approach. As with any good frontier in the USA, this is being tackled through a flurry of private companies chasing an opportunity. MaaS has been identified by the EU as an explicit tool to help reach sustainability. The EU intends to create a single market for data where it can benefit everyone. This will help to pool data, in sectors such as transportation, with shared interoperable data spaces.
In the digital age, the USA maintains a legal framework that protects intellectual property, whereas the EU has a history since the 1980s of helping maintain consumers’ data privacy. This has also been evident through the bottom-up, privately funded development of technology-based mobility services in the USA, and through the broad goals for enhancing technology services and encouraging and funding start-up innovation in the EU.
Throughout recent history, effective transportation solutions have been shored up through public funds. Private and quasi-governmental mobility services still only provide a fraction of consumer movement. Through the recent invention of ride-sharing and ride-hailing services, we have seen a glimpse of how technology can increase accessibility and effectively reduce the need for vehicle ownership in the USA. Regretfully, these services do not integrate with other related modes of transport as the private companies are generally more concerned with their revenue model over integration. Integration potentially exposes key algorithms to competitors or exposes their customers to more cost or time effective alternatives.
The EU’s single market of data will become the foundation for MaaS, through the development of data definition standards, data gateways, and clean digital technologies. Just last month, EU member states signed three declarations to accelerate Europe’s green and digital transformation. As an encouraging start, higher level regulatory bodies need to direct transport providers to develop interoperable data standards and build the infrastructure to support it.
Standards such as the Mobility Data Standard and the General Transit Feed Specification are examples of how data should be designed and shared. The next step is for transportation to develop shared digital identity tools and data networks that can create secure, private channels for trusted MaaS deployment. Tools such as certificate-based, third-party authenticated identity and permissioned, blockchain-based ledgers can be foundational to integrating sustainability and mobility.