The digital‐age transport ecosystem
As more and more people move to cities, it is becoming increasingly challenging to ensure that they can get to where they need to go. Already today, cities are becoming increasingly congested, and the pollution that cars produce is causing serious health problems for city dwellers. Unless something is done, the situation will only get worse.
At the same time, the rise of the digital economy is transforming what is possible in the world of mobility, in particular in public transportation. As a result, the future of urban travel is going to look very different to the way people get around now.
While 20th century urban transport was dominated by the private car, the transport system of the 21st century will have a completely different emphasis. In the past, infrastructure such as roads, traffic calming measures and parking overwhelmingly favoured the car over other forms of transport, with cycling and public transportation having to fit around the needs of the driver.
The future of transport is public
But in future, infrastructure will be much more focused on public transport options, as cities move away from being built around private car use towards a more inclusive mobility model driven by digital technology. This has the potential to make the public transport of the future more punctual, cost‐efficient and able to react to how people are travelling and to conditions on the transportation networks.
The latest study by shared transport group Keolis, which has been looking at mobility trends since 2007, shows that 83% of respondents believe technology will make it easier to get around their city, while 70% of smartphone users use a transport app at least once a month. But at the same time, even the most tech‐savvy travellers are concerned about the speed of technological changes and 71% are worried about how transport operators use their personal data. As a result, it will be vital to ensure users’ privacy and data security using the latest encryption technologies.
However, transit authorities will have to usher in this revolution under the financial constraints that have long been a feature of the public sector, ensuring that they use technology options intelligently to get value for money.
Developments such as smart ticketing systems will enable transit operators and local authorities to provide secure, flexible, and speedy systems that make it easier for people to get around, whether they are commuting to work or visiting a tourist destination for the first time. And even mass transport options such as buses and trains will be able to provide services that are much more personal and tailored to the individual customer than before, making both commuters and tourists better‐informed and giving them the ability to access a whole range of more ‘on‐demand’ services while they are travelling.
These changes will be driven by environmental imperatives – the need to tackle polluting emissions from cars that contribute to both climate change and local air pollution that harms human health – and enabled by a range of technological developments such as advanced analytics, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, which will make it much easier to place individual vehicles of all types within a holistic, smart transportation system that offers travellers new ways to make their journeys.
Smart phones, particularly as they move on to the new 5G networks that are starting to come online around the world, will digitally enable every traveller, allowing them to access different types of transportation, to plan an entire journey from door to door, and pay for it without the need to carry around a wad of bank notes in their pockets.
Transit authorities will be able to offer mobility as a service (MaaS) encompassing a whole range of different modes of transport – from electric scooters and bikes to metro, tram, train and bus services, as well as ride‐sharing cars – all accessible via a single digital platform. Travellers will be able to get to wherever they need to go without needing to consult a timetable, look at a map or stop to pay their fare manually, thanks to e‐ticketing.
“Smart transport allows passengers to travel using not only a smart card, but also contactless bank cards, smart phones and even wearable devices – once technology and customer demands are mature enough. It is key to improving transport and infrastructure efficiency and enhancing customer experience,” says the consultancy EY.
The permanent connectivity that the digital revolution will create will not only help customers to make smarter decisions, it will allow transport staff to give travellers more accurate, up‐to‐date and useful advice on how to reach their destinations.
The move towards digitisation is not just transformative for public transport but also a huge business opportunity, driven by the rising expectations of users, especially the millennial generation. Millennials live in an integrated, app‐driven, anywhere, anytime marketplace. They expect online connectivity and they want connected frictionless E2E experiences. They are also less wedded to asset ownership and more open to the sharing economy than their predecessors, whether that is in accommodation, through companies such as AirBnB, or mobility, where they expect a seamless travelling experience that enables them to get around using multiple modes of transport – but don’t necessarily expect to own their own car.
Transport will become increasingly personalised, as digital technology allows users to order and pick up transport options via an app, says Jaanaki Momaya, UK general manager at electric bike and scooter company Lime. “Technology will continue to innovate the transport scene and influence how cities continue to grow and develop. With younger generations willing to embrace the benefits of urban mobility solutions, it’s clear cities need to adopt this innovative approach to mobility and consider how they can work with companies to ensure cities become smarter, fighting against issues such as congestion and pollution.”
Mobile devices and apps provide new visibility on what is happening on the road, in cars, buses and trucks, helping road uses and local authorities to react to changing road and weather conditions.
Driven by digitisation, the transport landscape has transformed over the last decade. Looking ahead, the pace of change is not going to slacken, says James Stevenson, general manager UK at American Express Global Business Travel. In future, he adds, “there will be more innovation, driven by increasingly stringent environmental protection laws in many cities”, which will spur the development and introduction of new low‐or‐no emission options for trains, trams and buses so that public transport will not just be the most convenient option for travellers, but the greenest as well.
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