Intelligent mobility and the sharing economy

Alex Burrows | 02 Jul 2015 | Comments

Both intelligent mobility and the sharing economy will increasingly influence and transform the transport sector over the next decade. This was the crux of a debate organised by Atkins in partnership with Sharing Economy UK held on Tuesday evening.

The ‘question time’ style panel discussion was received by an audience of representatives from several Government departments and agencies, established transport sector businesses, SMEs, academia and the media. Delegates were presented with an opportunity to put questions to a panel comprising representatives from Atkins, Liftshare, Zipcar UK and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The debate addressed three core themes: what will transport look like in 2025, what will it mean for transport users, and what will be the impact for Central and Local Government and the transport sector? There was a clear consensus on the panel that intelligent mobility would make a significant difference and its possibilities were already being felt across the industry. New entrants into the transport sector are pushing ideas and boosting customer take-up of new services.

With a highly-engaged audience challenging the panellists on a range of issues, several key areas of concerns emerged:

  • Is access to smartphones and other enabling technology going to create a two-tier system of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’?
  • What will be the impact of the devolution agenda and is the future going to be driven by the public or private sector?
  • What will be the practical impacts of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy, particularly on issues such as sustainability, social inclusion and on freight and goods?
  • Is data critical to all of this; is there sufficient data security or will we become overly-reliant on fragile systems, as well as the fundamental importance of open data?
  • What role will satellite capabilities play in influencing the future role of intelligent mobility?

It was made evident that the sharing economy brings significant benefits to the future transport sector. In particular, the more efficient use of assets and the ability to provide mobility on demand in potentially all places and at all times – challenging the existing transport sector to up its game.

Intelligent mobility can have a similar impact; making use of new technologies and big data analytics to better understand and utilise transport capacity to more effectively manage the demand for mobility services and finding creative ways to incentivise user behaviours.

It is notable that around two-thirds of the audience had used Uber and slightly fewer had used a sharing economy business such as Airbnb or Zipcar, while around half had used the Citymapper app. Sharing economy panellists showed great enthusiasm about their businesses and the role of the peer to peer economy in improving outcomes for transport users and the transport network as a whole.

For Atkins there was a clear message – the sector is growing and an increasing number of people are interested in the vast potential of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy to shape how we fully utilise transport systems and what we can expect from it. We cannot deny the fact that the digital transport revolution is here but we can welcome and be excited by the opportunities it will present. These are ideas whose time has come.

The initial article on this topic is available to read here.

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