Intelligent Mobility: A new era for travel planning

Chris Hanley | 12 Feb 2015 | Comments

Can we understand the true benefit of such new applications over more traditional forms of sustainable travel delivery? Is there still room for both? Probably. But how can the technology industry play a role in facilitating wider and more effective public engagement and improving the monitoring performance of smarter travel projects? Furthermore, what does the travel plan of the future look like in terms of the provision for technology-based measures? We look forward to seeing these issues discussed at Smarter Travel 2015.

Increasingly, the talk of any sustainable travel project is around Intelligent Mobility. This seamlessly connects people, places and goods across all transport modes. It is all about behavioural change in the door-to-door journey – how we use technology and data on the road, cycling and walking network, rail and public transport networks to inform decision making and enable behavioural change.

The withdrawal of Transport Direct as a Government maintained service opens up the market to a number of new private sector led and publicly funded journey planners using Open Data. User feedback is being incorporated into how journey options are presented (for example, how the Waze application automatically re-routes drivers to an alternative route if there is congestion ahead recorded by other drivers using the application).

Providing user feedback in a smart way is increasingly what consumers want and are familiar with, but there can be unintended consequences. Real-time journey re-routing may cut journey times for customers but could lead to increased traffic volumes on minor roads (with associated environmental impacts on local communities).

Customers are increasingly using rewards-based journey planners that offer personal added value. For example, the user receives an alert to a number of coffee shops on route and is offered a discount to stop along their way. This concept, referred to as ‘gamification’ by some, can help to engage a wider audience, but we need to hear more from the technology industry about the longer-term mode shift potential and whether we will witness ‘gamification’ fatigue!

As sustainable travel professionals we are, and should continue to, embrace Intelligent Mobility but should remain open-minded about specific technology solutions and their intended benefits for LSTF revenue schemes in the coming year. Technology gives us the opportunity to influence a wider audience but the role of knowledgeable, local transport planners will always be key especially when engaging with sections of the population who are most impacted by social exclusion issues.

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Atkins is a lead sponsor for Smarter Travel 2015 in Birmingham in February. The conference will provide a platform to showcase successes achieved by the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) projects over the last three years, along with a chance for technology providers to demonstrate their latest smarter travel products and journey planning applications.

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