'Netflix of transport' could make Singaporeans less reliant on their cars

Imagine having unlimited use of public transport - including buses, trains and bicycles - and a pre-set amount 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 at 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 could get more people to give up their cars in favour of public transportation, said Mr Pyyhtia.

Finland's Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner, who spoke at the conference, told ST: "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, added Ms Berner.

But she noted 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 end of the year.

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 transport authorities worldwide.

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