Use of data: Finland as a model of efficient mobility?

Overview of hectic and traffic congested street with multiple trams driving through.

Read this article in German.

Data plays a central role as the basis for the functionality and effectiveness of innovative mobility offers. Accordingly, companies collect and use it in a targeted manner. The data can be used to improve and target the services precisely. But they are also of great interest to local authorities: It was not only the debate about car rental services and the frequent question of whether they truly return to their location that raised the question of whether companies can be persuaded to share more data. This debate has taken on a new wind: The reason for this is the proposal of the Selection Commission to integrate a regulation on the provision of mobility data in the amendment to the Passenger Transport Act. According to the key issues paper, mobility providers should make their data available to municipalities and third parties, following the Finnish example. However, this demand raises many questions and, above all, different reactions from all parties involved.

What does the Finnish model imply? Doesn’t this put my mobility company at a disadvantage? Is it personal data? Is this data subject to a trade secret? There is not (yet) a uniform answer to these questions, as it depends on the individual concerned and the final version of the amendment.

Provision of data is currently subject to criticism

Private mobility providers, for example, who depend on the collection of large data sets for the further development of their product, are reluctant to give up the data they have collected because they fear that they will have to give up the advantage they have gained themselves and the direct cooperation with the customer. Public mobility providers, on the other hand, who already have to make their data available for cooperation with local authorities, do not have to fear for their competitive position. Communities that want and should continue to develop their mobility concept are dependent on the data of mobility providers and can only make progress with successful collaboration. At the same time, they can use regulated data delivery to create certainty about the extent to which mobility providers such as Uber disregard the obligation to return or whether this is an unfounded accusation. And finally, consumers and end-users who want an optimal, sustainable and innovative mobility offer expect comprehensive protection of their data.

So how can the balancing act between data protection on the one hand and the use of data on the other be mastered without having to accept a distortion of the market? And how can companies benefit from data transfer without feeling that they are losing control? One possibility is the model from Helsinki, which is now also being used as the basis for German legislation.

Can the Finnish model be transferred to Germany?

In Finland, everyone involved, whether public transport or e-scooter providers, must make their contribution to the holistically conceived Mobility as a Service offering of municipalities and private providers. According to the law, all providers are obliged to make their data available to ensure an optimal mobility offer in the city by combining all data. This can and should help to ensure fair competition, for example by providing clarity in the discussion about compliance with the obligation to return. Only this way it is possible, according to Finnish convictions, to transfer the mobility promise of the private car to other forms of mobility. An approach that could also find fertile ground with mobility providers in Germany, as they too are pursuing the goal of creating a long-term alternative to the private car.

Nevertheless, the path to this goal has not yet been fully paved and must be bridged by debates and dialogues between politicians and companies. A uniform definition of obligations and the data situation is fundamental to this. Only this way an agreed-on answer to the questions mentioned at the beginning can be found for a German model.

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