Are we on a path to a brighter transport future?

 

The transport industry has certainly seen its fair share of disruption over the past decade. Ride-hailing apps and new technologies have massively changed how we travel and pressured traditional players into innovating to keep up.

While technological ‘disruption’ has been a driving force in transforming our infrastructure, we should also recognise the journey that we need to go on to change public attitudes. With the movement towards Mobility as a Service, we’ll eventually rely on both public and private services to get us around.

”Local

We’re not going to encourage modal shift overnight – it will take time to get people on board with a new transport model.

We seem to be reaching a watershed moment in 2019 though, with attitudinal shifts and Government commitments promising a bright future.

Smart, on-demand travel is now closer to reality than pipe dream. Here are just a handful of trends which suggest we are moving in the right direction:

Less private, more public

We’re all aware of how expensive it has become to privately own a car. Not only are fuel costs rising, but drivers must add several other fees to the list including insurance costs, road tax and vehicle maintenance.

This financial burden is reflected in driving licence trends. In 2018, the Department for Transport reported that there were 40% fewer teenagers with a licence in the UK than two decades previously. Similar attitudes are developing around the world – in China, for example, fewer people now view their car as a status symbol.

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) recently came into action in central London, with non-compliant cars required to pay £12.50 a day to enter the zone. Similarly, in Paris, ‘car-free days’ have been organised to encourage positive change.

Beyond the capital, there are other examples of a changing approach. Coventry City Council, for example, recently announced that it is paying 100 car owners £3,000 to leave their vehicles at home.

Having such incentives in place alongside further investment in our infrastructure should act as the encouragement we need to ditch the car and take to public transport.

Testing, testing

It’s fair to say that the development of autonomous vehicles has had its ups and downs. Accidents during trials and a general anxiety around taking our hands off the wheel mean that plenty more testing needs to be undertaken before exponential change happens.

In accordance with this, the UK has put itself in pole position with a huge investment of £500m committed to the research and design of autonomous vehicles. The number of companies working in this area is ever-increasing.

Top universities and manufacturers are making rapid advancements - Oxbotica, a company launched by The University of Oxford, began trialling the use of autonomous vehicles for retailer Ocado.

With stronger commitment and investment, we should be on track to run autonomous transport safely on our roads in the future and start tapping into its great potential.

Data-driven decisions

Data has become key in driving business decisions across so many industries – transport isn’t exempt from its influence either. Information gathered by vehicles can provide fantastic insight into how, where and when we travel.

We can expect these data collection capabilities to filter through the whole transport network in years to come, boosted by the global roll-out of 5G.

According to the European Commission, 5G implementation in major cities will start in 2019/20, with full coverage of major roads and train stations expected in Europe by 2025. With this connectivity, we’ll be able to put information to use at a much faster pace – reacting to any delays, re-routing services and updating passengers accordingly.

Developments in these areas will undoubtedly lead to big shifts in transport use and habits. For operators, it’s vital they continue to think at a macro-level – using a combination of data, research and legislation to build an exciting future of travel.

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