It can be awkward and time consuming. This is why the Finnish startup MaaS Global decided to combine all these services in a single application called Whim. Available in more than 10 cities across Europe and Asia, users can access taxis, buses, bicycles, electric scooters and rental cars.
“Whim’s only goal is to compete with car ownership,” CEO Sampo Hietanen told CNN Business.
He admits it’s no easy task. To be successful, Whim has to be more convenient and less expensive than owning a car. “The car represents freedom of mobility”, explains Hietanen – even if a city dweller hardly uses it, he always keeps it parked outside as “freedom insurance”.
To compete, Whim offers rental cars and taxis, but Hietanen says users tend to opt for public transport or micromobility (light shared vehicles like bicycles or electric scooters).
Users can choose between multiple levels of service, including a pay-as-you-go option and a 30-day subscription, which costs € 62 ($ 73) in Helsinki – where the app is most prevalent – for transport unlimited public and short taxi rides. The ticket also offers car rental starting at € 55 ($ 65) per day.
While Helsinki has well-developed alternatives to driving, this is not the case everywhere. If a city “does not have an extensive public transport system or a lot of rental cars or taxis in place” then it will be difficult to convince people to give up their cars, says Maria Kamargianni, associate professor of Transportation and Energy at University College. London.
But the company has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, says Hietanen; with fewer people traveling, incomes are lower, which delays the expansion of the business to other cities.
“We knew from the start that the investment needed to create this would be substantial,” he said, adding that the company had recently secured new investments.
This is already happening, says Hietanen. According to a company survey in Helsinki, 12% of its users said Whim made them give up their cars. “People want the most durable solution,” he says, “but they still want the freedom to be able to go anywhere, anytime.”