Delivering it is a real challenge. The different transport modes (train, bus or tram, scooter or electric bicycle, etc.) are managed by operators of all kinds: private and public carriers, start-ups, automobile manufacturers, digital players, etc. Creating fluid and “seamless” journeys requires that their digital platforms are technically interoperable and that they use common secure standards. As for the physical interconnection between modes, it must accurately reflect what the MaaS apps offer. This supposes an integrated approach, combining transport, urban planning and services, based on new forms of shared governance. In France, RATP Group is one of the pioneers of MaaS. It has already developed the TAC Mobilités application for customers of the transport network in Annemasse, launched a MaaS solution integrating smartphone tickets in Angers in September 2019, and is now deploying a MaaS app in Brest. Finally, in November 2020, it bought Mappy, number three in daily mobility in France after Google Maps and Waze, with the intention of developing a 100% French leader in digital mobility.
“The value of data is in the service we are able to produce from it.”
Is the digital transition a real game-changer for RATP Group?
Not that much. The Group has always known how to anticipate technological challenges, as proven by its history. Digitalization is just one more challenge, a cultural challenge, of changing our ways of working and designing. We are addressing this with an ambitious digital transformation plan, which has been going on for three years now.
What is the ambition in terms of digital strategy?
To become the leader in connected mobility, with two strong points of differentiation. We promote sustainable mobility, which allows the city to be less congested and less polluted. And we have the ability to support digital uses that are consistent with the physical world, which is not the case for all players. Dealing with the complexities of multimodal integration, on behalf of passengers, means making sure it works in real life! This is what we did in Annemasse with a jointly built MaaS app, within a public-private ecosystem that is quite unique in France.
The digital city thrives on data. What is your vision of the proper management of this resource?
I will distinguish three broad families of data. First, the data that helps to keep passengers better informed, and is a stimulus for the mobility ecosystem. We were the first to open up this data in 2012, going beyond what the regulations require of us.
Then operational data, which is a matter of personal safety and the business secrets that we protect. Finally, data that falls between these two worlds, which can be exchanged with other operators when jointly building a service. But in the end, let’s not forget that the value of data is in the service we are able to produce from it.
To ensure a balance between private interests and citizens’ concerns, each city sets the bar at a different level. At the forefront of smart cities, Barcelona created its Urban Lab in 2008 to let entrepreneurs use public spaces to test their ideas for improving city life. When a project is selected, the Urban Lab identifies the neighborhoods where it can be tested and connects the innovators with the municipal services in charge of these sectors. Since 2008, around 80 projects have been submitted and a quarter of them tested in the city streets. Among the innovations that the Urban Lab has enabled to emerge, many are linked to mobility: intelligent garbage collection by optimizing journeys, an app to find parking spaces, and real-time monitoring of road traffic to allow local authorities to better manage it.
“Technology is necessary, but not sufficient, to make cities happy.”
Which are the smart cities of today?
The largest smart cities are spread around the world: Barcelona, Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, New York, Singapore, Seoul, etc. But we are also seeing today the coexistence of various models that do not give the same importance to certain elements of the smart city: in Northern Europe, the emphasis is on sustainability;
in Asia, the technological component is evident; other cities have chosen to develop or apply a more cross-cutting strategy, such as Paris, the “15-minute city” in which everything a resident needs can be reached within 15 minutes, or the technological humanism of Barcelona.
How can smart systems be put at the service of city residents?
Technology, which dominates our lives and especially our urban lives, is essential for improving urban life and empowering citizens, but it must not restrict freedom of expression, creativity, art and all that makes cities inspiring, dynamic, exciting and attractive.
Being smart does not come from the city, but from its people: it is this humanization that we must strengthen if we want truly smart cities in the future.
Paris, 13th arrondissement, the Paris Rive Gauche neighborhood. It is here, along Avenue Pierre-Mendès-France and Austerlitz station and around the National Library of France, that “Paris2Connect” is being brought to life. The project is one of 15 winners of the 2018 call for proposals for an “Urban innovation district for Paris Rive Gauche” launched by the City of Paris. “Paris2Connect” is led by a group of private, public and start-up players. RATP Group is part of it, alongside ATC France, Audiospot, Aximum, Nokia, Parking Map, and Signify (formerly Philips Lighting).
Three working themes have been chosen: driverless transport, smart infrastructure (intersections, lighting, parking lots and signage) and user experience (accessibility, attractiveness and organization of public spaces). The Group, which has already led successful driverless shuttle experiments in France and the United States, is providing a use case around the driverless vehicle.
“We look at the city in the long term and in a systemic way.”
Has the Group taken an upstream position on innovation in the city?
In fact, my division does not work on directly operational subjects but rather on long-term projects. Our approach is systemic and goes beyond the platforms that are generally mentioned when talking about the digital city. It is more a question of looking at how to use digital technologies to optimize the boundaries between public transport and other urban systems.
Is this the purpose of the partnership formed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)?
We have just completed our first year of working with MIT on smart curbs. The curb, the edge of the sidewalk where it joins the road, is at the border between buildings and traffic flows. We want to better understand the uses of these rare public spaces which are subject to high demand. The Paris2Connect project is another example of our interest in uses. Its roll-out has been delayed by the health crisis, but we are in the process of identifying the use cases we will be working on. Using the cameras and sensors installed for Paris2Connect, we will better understand what is really going on in the street.
You also work with French academics. Can you tell us about the chair created with leading science and engineering university École des Ponts ParisTech ?
The name of this chair is “How should we regulate the city of the future?”. Its work began on a first subject, MaaS, with two of the university’s laboratories, one a specialist in mobility, the other in public policies. Several workshops have already been held, bringing together players from the Group and the research teams.
Their goal is to explore the way in which regulators and decision-makers can use MaaS, this tool which sees the convergence of the core functions of local authorities, the contribution of operators and end uses.