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The road to Intelligent Mobility

The UK is leading the way in developing systems that will help travellers reduce their dependency on the car, writes Simon White

Simon White
The TSC study found that 72% of travellers own a smartphone and 54% now consider it an essential part of their travel experience
The TSC study found that 72% of travellers own a smartphone and 54% now consider it an essential part of their travel experience
The LUTZ Pathfinder project is overseeing the trial of three automated pods within MIlton Keynes city centre to assess their feasiblity
The LUTZ Pathfinder project is overseeing the trial of three automated pods within MIlton Keynes city centre to assess their feasiblity

 

Population growth, traffic, pollution and the overall transport experience are such that a change in direction is needed. Much of the transport network is over-stretched and traditional solutions, such as road widening schemes or extra services, often lag behind the requirements they are trying to meet and tend to be prohibitively expensive.

The Transport Systems Catapult highlighted the challenges in its Traveller Needs and UK Capability study. Commissioned by the Department for Transport and Innovate UK, it looked at the experiences of over 10,000 UK travellers. 

The study showed that 75% of journeys in the UK are subject to ‘pain points’, particularly when multiple means of transport are used, and 53% of travellers are constantly looking for ways to optimise or improve their journey.

Digital solutions

To fix such a wide-reaching problem seems like a difficult task – but the reality is that the digital revolution is opening doors to new ways of approaching traditional problems. The Traveller Needs study identified that 72% of travellers own a smartphone and 54% now consider it an essential part of their travel experience. Further, 57% of travellers would not mind sharing their data if it would benefit their journey in a tangible way.

The growing strain on the UK’s transport system, coupled with this digitalised user base, means we should no longer be considering transport modes in isolation. A whole system approach is needed to maximise capacity and provide an end-to-end experience for travellers who increasingly expect digital solutions. This will require the development of ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) business models, as well as innovations in user experience and new technologies.

What we are talking about are Intelligent Mobility (IM)?solutions that integrate and create more efficient and sustainable transport systems.

Overcoming barriers

The Traveller Needs study identified three key areas, encompassing 12 challenges, which need to be addressed in order to create an Intelligent Mobility led transport network. 

The first key area is to create a more customer-focused approach to transport. For instance, we need to find ways of helping urban travellers to reduce their travel and providing more options to those dependent on travelling by car. It’s vital that solutions are tailored to individual needs, if we are to change behaviours and free up capacity.

The second area concerns the need to enhance end-to-end journeys within the transport system. This includes enabling public transport to provide the flexibility and conveniences traditionally offered by the car, and actively engaging travellers in journey planning to allow more efficient use of the overall capacity. Inherently, it also means finding innovative ways of getting personalised information to individuals to enable more informed decisions.

The final set of challenges we face is in removing the ‘pain points’ experienced by most transport users. This will involve new ways of looking at problems which are often taken for granted, like lack of parking spaces, motorway congestion and transport delays. It also means reducing the complexity of multi-modal journeys by looking at Mobility as a Service instead of a series of disjointed interactions. 

Pathways to Intelligent Mobility

To deliver on these challenges, Intelligent Mobility solutions will require the integration of different technologies, products and services, which can loosely be grouped into four themes: Access; Automation; Demand & Supply; and Integration. If these themes are invested in correctly, and in concert, we could see a step-change in Intelligent Mobility by 2030. 

Access in this context means extending traveller options beyond privately owned vehicles and traditional public transport to innovations like ride- sharing and bicycle hire. User experience is critical to success in this area. We need to make it quick and simple for travellers to access a variety of services whilst enabling personalised and context aware experience on the move. A seamless journey using a wide range of transport modes (tailored to the user experience) may be the outcome.

We also need to look at balancing demand and supply within the transport network more effectively. The fact is congestion is currently confined to specific routes and times of the day across all modes of transport. 

The goal should be to shift flows to less congested routes, reducing peak time demand and downtimes of transport and infrastructure assets. This will involve understanding traveller behaviour and using information to enable more users to make active choices about how and when they travel, as well as increasing the availability of reliable data to transport planners. 

In terms of technology, automation is also a strong theme on the road to Intelligent Mobility. Drivers who use autonomous features could benefit from reduced fatigue, additional productive time and increased safety through the reduction of human error. When sufficient penetration is reached, there will be a significant opportunity to boost overall transport efficiency, speeding flows and increasing capacity – greatly enhancing the improvements made in other areas.

Finally, greater integration is needed if we are to achieve a smarter transport network. The aim should be to bring together disparate information, systems and services to provide travellers with a seamless end-to-end experience. By integrating different traffic modes and operators we can remove ‘pain points’ and allow better journey planning, whilst enhancing the gains made in the other three areas. 

Encouraging collaboration  

Transforming the current network in a way that will make it sustainable in the long term requires new thinking and collaboration across the industry, academia and government – as well as strong consideration of powerful new players and disruptive start-ups entering the market.

The good news for the UK is that the Traveller Needs study clearly demonstrated that the UK is well placed to meet these challenges. This is possible due to the UK’s vibrant research base and industry strengths, which should not only overcome the many challenges but also, as a World leader in this area, access the considerable Intelligent World market, creating significant economic wealth for the UK.    

The TSC’s recently launched IMExchange (www.imexchange.co.uk) online community seeks to bridge the gaps between transport modes by bringing together transport professionals from all disciplines to discuss Intelligent Mobility Solutions. 

Meanwhile, IMData (IMData.co.uk), brings together an index of over 200 sources of data from different transport modes to enable and encourage solutions which take into account the whole system.

You can read the full Traveller Needs and UK Capability study at ts.catapult.org.uk where you can also find information on how you can collaborate with the Transport Systems Catapult. 

Simon White is communications manager at Transport Systems Catapult and speaking at Smarter Travel LIVE!


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