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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Netherlands will be the first country where car ownership will disappear

The shared car is still barely catching on, but the Netherlands will still be one of the first countries in the world where car ownership disappears. At least that is what Siemens expects that is currently developing a revolutionary travel app for NS, RET and HTM.

It is the holy grail in the world of public transport. A mobility app that allows travelers to plan their trip from door to door. A kind of 9292, but then including associated means of transport that are available on-demand: from shared bicycles to scooters, cars, the bus, train, tram, and metro. This is called Mobility as a Service or MaaS in jargon.

The German Siemens is one of the worldwide pioneers in this field. The group is working on such a total solution for travelers in various countries, says Olivier Gueydan, CEO of the Dutch branch Siemens Mobility. “The Netherlands is the first country where we are rolling out the platform nationally. In the US, Austria, and Spain, among others, where we are also active, we only do this for certain urban agglomerations, such as Los Angeles.”

Test app

In our country, Siemens Mobility is developing the app on behalf of NS and major city transporters HTM (The Hague) and RET (Rotterdam). A first version will be ready next spring, Gueydan expects. “Then we will test the app, after which it will be available to everyone.”

It is not surprising that the Netherlands is the first country where Siemens is rolling out a comprehensive public transport app for national use. “The Netherlands is densely populated and has an intricate rail network,” explains Gueydan, who himself comes from France, where the countryside is much larger. “The Dutch are more likely to embrace new technologies than the Germans or the French and are often among the early adopters .”

Siemens, which is active in 192 countries, has high expectations for the new online mobility platform. “The way people move from A to B will radically change,” Gueydan said. “The car will gradually disappear as a personal means of transport. Planning your trip door-to-door, without having to own a car yourself, is the future. You can already see that many young people are not interested in car ownership.”

Holy cow

The question is, of course, whether Siemens does not indulge in wishful thinking. For the time being, the Dutch seem to be stubbornly clinging to their sacred cow. Over the past decade, car ownership has grown by nearly 14 percent to nearly nine million passenger cars. 

The shared car is now only used sparsely. Although there are almost a million car sharers on paper, only 200,000 people have used such a shared car at least once in the past three years,  the Knowledge Institute Mobility (KiM) calculated at the beginning of this month. Only 0.02 percent of all car journeys are made with shared cars such as those from Greenwheels. According to KiM, that share has not grown since 2014. 

Gueydan understands the skepticism. Before people get rid of their cars, travel apps like Siemens’ one must first prove their worth. “Travel should be hassle-free, with means of transport that you hardly have to wait for.” It is important for this that trains and buses run at a high frequency.

A second condition is that governments further discourage car ownership. More and more cities are banning cars from the city center, and a parking space for new-build homes is no longer a matter of course. 

Cost

It is also important that the costs of car ownership become more transparent, says CEO Gueydan of Siemens Mobility. Now, when buying a car, people mainly look at the purchase costs and the pump prices. 

“But you also pay road tax, insurance, a parking permit, the costs of parking garages. In addition, the actual infrastructure and environmental costs are hardly passed on to car users. If you take all that into account, it is much easier to make a comparison between car and train.”

Ultimately, the arrival of self-driving cars and minibuses, which can drive on-demand, will help reduce car ownership, Siemens predicts. “It will happen and sooner than you think. Who would have thought fifteen years ago that many cars could park themselves, and not only in luxury models for a long time?”

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