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Emerging Technologies and Transport

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Dockless bikes

Most of us simply reach for the car keys whenever we need to make a journey – after all, what could be easier?

The provision of infrastructure and services to support the variety of viable alternatives to driving is currently scattered across private and public organisations with seemingly little or no integration – we simply don’t have the time or the inclination to sort out whether there might be a better alternative to driving.

This is all about to change.

Already the development of increasingly autonomous, intelligent and connected devices is blurring of the physical and virtual world. The potential impact of emerging technologies on transport services that will make it easier for people choose the most appropriate travel mode for each and every journey they need to make.

Emerging technologies including Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)are likely to have the biggest impact in the coming years and, already, are disrupting the provision of transport services in two key areas:

  1. the way ‘conventional’ transport is delivered
  2. new transport modes such as autonomous vehicles and drones

Dockless bike hire

Already, in urban areas, emerging technology is changing the provision of something as conventional as cycling. With a growing number of dockless bike hire schemes, simply scanning the bike’s QR code or tapping a debit or credit card on the bike to pay, releases the lock via smart Bluetooth.

Changing the transport system

But there is more to come. The combination of these emerging technologies working together with transport service providers will fundamentally change the way our transport system works. How? Well, the Internet of Things (IoT) will harvest more data, which will be processed by ever smarter Artificial Intelligence (AI) in real time. This will help with the planning of future transport networks as well as deploying new transport methods like drones and autonomous vehicles.

This change in our transport system and the effect of emerging technologies means being able to optimise someone’s travel by multiple criteria, changing this on a daily basis, all arranged by a single service provider. A person can make journeys by any combination of modes, with facial recognition seamlessly mapping a customer’s journey, calculating the cheapest appropriate products and then deducting the fare from their chosen account. Greater insights into journey demand, coupled with access to a wider range of transport sub-modes such as electric bikes, will improve provision of tailored transport services in both urban and rural communities.

Mobility as a Service

An example of this is Mobility as a Service  (MaaS) where users buy transport services as packages based on their needs, instead of buying the actual means of transport. MaaS is currently being trialled in the West Midlands and Scotland.

Mobility as a Service can be perceived as a one-stop online journey planner and booking system for the entire end-to-end journey stages comprising:

  • an intermodal journey planner (providing combinations of different transport modes: car-sharing, car rental, underground, rail, bus, bike-sharing, taxi, etc.) that operates in real-time
  • a single payment portal like that for smartphones, whereby users can pay as they go or else buy a ‘service bundle’ in advance

Autonomous vehicles

In another scenario, imagine a commuter getting the train home from work.  An autonomous vehicle pod will be waiting as they exit the station. It has already been loaded with their shopping ordered on the train trip and their dry cleaning. They’ve opted for a lower cost option, and share the pod with two other passengers who need dropping home en route.

Blockchain

Now think of a train operator. Currently passengers buy their tickets on an app or the web and the credit card company takes a cut for processing the transaction. With blockchain, not only can the train operator save on credit card processing fees, it can move the entire ticketing process to the blockchain. The two parties in the transaction are the railway company and the passenger. The ticket is a “block”, which will be added to a ticket “blockchain”. Just as a monetary transaction on blockchain is a unique, independently verifiable and unfalsifiable record (like Bitcoin), so your ticket can be.

The future

Transport is a sector that is rich in data already yet this volume of data and the way in which it can be used is about to grow enormously as transport providers and planners keep a close eye on advances in technology and continually reassess the future impact.

Whether it is a business park, residential development or a city centre project, the provision of infrastructure and services that support alternatives to driving are central to transport planning. Glanville is working on a number of transport planning projects for developers that are influenced by the future effect of emerging technologies.

To find out more contact Peter Whitehead, Associate Director, Chartered Civil Engineer, BSc CEng MICE MCIHT