Mitsubishi Corp Invests in Whim App Parent Company MaaS Global
With self-driving cars, and virtual assistants, and artificial intelligence being placed into vehicles, it’s starting to feel like we’re living in the future. Just take a look at some of the tech Mitsubishi Electric brought to the 2019 Consumer Electronics Shows. Pretty much everything we just mentioned was demonstrated at the Mitsubishi Electric booth, from artificial intelligence (A.I.) systems that can monitor the driver using facial recognition to virtual platforms that can connect multiple vehicles in a tailgate party. Part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and with a hand in Alliance Ventures, Mitsubishi Motor Corp (MMC) is getting a feel for making smart investments. Their latest may be a service that will replace the need for personal transportation – Whim.
So when did we enter the days of the Jetson? Okay, so maybe no flying cars yet (still waiting), but the need for personal transportation is starting to slowly fade. With taxis, and Uber, and Lyft, and even self-driving services like Waymo One, the everyday consumer who can’t afford a vehicle doesn’t need to rely on public transportation like a bus or subway to get where they need to go. A Finnish firm, MaaS Global Oy, based in Helsinki, is the company behind the Whim mobile application. With Whim, consumers can sign up for a variety of plans that offer bus, tram, taxi, car, bicycles, and more transportation services, and all in one app.
That’s right. One app. No need to switch between Uber and whatever fancy app your closest public transportation is using nowadays to orchestrate your morning route. Whim can help take care of that for you. It’s still public transport, but like Uber and Lyft, not only does the service work on your time, but it feels like a more personalized experience. Currently, the app works mainly in its homeland of Finland, mostly in Helsingin seudun liikenne or HSL. Whim also operates in Birmingham, U.K. and Antwerp, Belgium.
For 500 euros a month, a consumer will get unlimited access to cars; taxis; buses, Metro, ferry, and commuter trains in the HSL area; and bike rentals. All of these have their respective limits, such as a two-hour max for a vehicle and then a charge for every hour afterward. Of course, there are more affordable plans, four in total, including a “Pay As You Go” method.
So why does this matter for Mitsubishi Corp? The Tokyo-based company recently bought shares in MaaS Global Oy, joining Toyota Financial Services in the latest funding round set by MaaS Global Oy, adding onto the already 24 million euros ($26 million) funded in April 2019. Chief Executive Officer Sampo Hietanen was intent on finding strategic investors that can “…[bring in] not just money but something extra.”
“This is what a car tends to represent to people, it’s this promise of freedom to go anytime, anywhere on a whim…We really need to concentrate on delivering that.” – Hietanen.
Since Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the automaker has been slowly expanding on a global level. Mitsubishi Motors expanded from Tokyo to several countries, including the U.S. in the 1980s. In addition, Hietanen needs a strong partner to help launch the Whim app in Vienna, Singapore, and several cities in Japan. Just like Google did with Waymo, MaaS Global is piloting the service in small user numbers in various markets to gradually improve the user experience. By 2020, MaaS Global expects to open in Miami and Chicago in the states and Vancouver, B.C. in Canada. Now that’s something to look forward to.
Would you be interested in a personalized transportation service? It sounds like a cool idea. Join the discussion on University Mitsubishi social media.