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The Rise of Mobility Startups in Southeast Asia

Mobility technology is already a vastly popular industry. From ride-sharing to autonomous cars, the idea of using mobility as a service (MaaS) is not new. While some regions globally already dominate the market, the Southeast Asia MaaS sector is beginning to challenge many established companies. With increasingly innovative technologies and business models available to startups in the region, the future of mobility within the region is looking good.

One centralised aspect of the sector is transporting people and goods by using vehicles. The humble beginnings of the region’s technology-enhanced mobility industry started by simply giving people a means to travel from A to B. Now, many startups are exploring worldwide technologies regarded as the next big thing regarding mobility. In an effort not to be left behind, Southeast Asia’s latest, most promising ventures are addressing the population’s needs in a noteworthy way.

Mobility industries in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is no stranger to big ride-hailing companies. Their version offers an entirely different concept and goes above and beyond the original, uber. Grab and GoJek, two of the most successful ride-hailing companies in the industry, created super-apps offering digital payment options for services beyond just transporting people to their destination. This innovative approach helps people find transport, buy tickets to entertainment shows and access services such as a masseuse or hairstylist, to name a few.

Like the US’s Zipcar, Car-sharing has come to the forefront of the region in recent times. Providing a similar service to Zipcar, Malaysian startup SoCar joined the mobility game. This transport sharing service is not limited to just vehicle hire; it also offers the option of hiring a driver.

On-demand logistics is also growing into a promising area of mobility services in the region. It aims to address problems that independent truck drivers face from a commercial standpoint, such as small loads and long wait times. Logistics firms such as Logivan create solutions by providing a platform that gives cargo space trucks and shipments the opportunity to connect seamlessly.

Inter-city public mobility is a relatively new area designed to improve public transportation systems. In many parts of Southeast Asia, public transit is limited to fixed-route busses, both in the city and running inter-city. Companies such as Indonesia’s Tron address the issue by offering a bus-hailing solution where the vehicles will pick up at virtual bus stops as requested by the consumer.

As Southeast Asia becomes a tech hub in other verticals, they aim to match or exceed the work done in MaaS that started in Scandinavia and is slowly moving around the globe.

Southeast Asian autonomous vehicle development

The countries in the region look at autonomous vehicles in different ways, with some rapidly innovating and others reluctant to invest. Singapore is ranked first in KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index because of the legislation and policies introduced towards self-driving vehicles. Consumers have also begun to open up to the idea of autonomous travel vehicles.

The issue arising for many is that these vehicles have not yet undergone complete testing for their efficacy in any environment. Open-street environments, for example, may not see their use for quite some time. Singapore, being well-equipped with legalities covering the use of autonomous vehicles, has become a key testing area for driverless cars, trucks and buses. As the most highly developed tech research hub in the region, the country is also the perfect place to test the latest innovations in MaaS and autonomous vehicles.

Key challenges for MaaS

While the future of MaaS is bright, there are still some challenges that many startups and government-backed initiatives need to overcome for the mobility landscape in the region to grow to its full potential and introduce new transport systems.

One issue stems from the difficulty in introducing the concept and convincing potential users who have chosen their method of transport to change and open up to the new options. Once something works, many users are wary of making changes or adapting to something new. The incentive for users to switch over to new models is a roadblock that needs breaking down before MaaS can develop further and cement its position within the region’s growing mobility industry.

Mobility as a service will only continue to grow in popularity as more technical innovations solve problems in the transportation of goods and people. The Southeast Asia MaaS market is likely to continue its upwards trajectory as startups break into the industry with effective and intriguing solutions. With Singapore highly involved in testing autonomous cars, governments and startups in the region are hyper-aware of the potential benefits a bright future of mobility in Southeast Asia might bring.


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