Intelligent mobility to fast forward freight

James Datson | 26 Oct 2015 | Comments

Interest in Intelligent Mobility is rapidly developing in the freight sector as operators, transport authorities and consumers look to new technologies and business models to achieve better outcomes.

To date, innovation in the freight sector has been a key focus of the operators themselves; improving cost efficiency, fuel efficiency, payload maximisation and journey time reliability.  This has undoubtedly had beneficial impacts, however there remains significant potential for further innovation.

We are seeing many signs that in the future, freight operators will offer a more integrated and consumer centric service.  This is will lead to highly individualised delivery options, reverse delivery services (where you can “send from your door”), and new ways of supporting the brand value of the products delivered.

Intelligent Mobility (IM) will undoubtedly continue to drive innovation in the sector and the near-term IM market opportunities include the growth of peer-to-peer delivery platforms and innovation such as:

  • Shutl – a service which offers a platform for buying and selling empty space on freight vehicles
  • Picknpass – an App that “hires” people moving from A to B as part of their daily routine to deliver goods to business and private customers
  • CycleEye – a road user safety technology which uses sensors to identify cyclists in potentially dangerous proximity to HGVs and is of particular interest to highway authorities.

Longer term opportunities are likely to develop as part of the growing sharing economy and we expect autonomous vehicle technology, on land and in the air, to play a bigger part in the sector.  There is also an exciting development to use underground tunnels to move bulk goods under full automatic control – the Innovate UK-funded Mole project.

Regardless of which IM technologies rise and fall in the market, the potential for data platforms that “understand” the supply and demand for freight look extremely interesting.  Future innovation in this space may mean that authorities can visualise empty space available in freight vehicles, and use sentiment mapping to analyse levels of HGV driver frustration in congested networks.  Such information is likely to attract political interest in supporting the industry to provide better value to our urban systems.

There is significant opportunity for IM to transform the freight sector and we see the following key building blocks as important steps to engaging authorities to help achieve success:

  • Building evidence to support change: quantifying existing inefficiency in the city/freight system
  • Partnership working: between urban authorities and the freight sector
  • Leadership in policy and regulation: cities must consider their role in leading on Intelligent Mobility adoption.

So to conclude, some of the outcomes of the predicted changes to the industry will undoubtedly require strong political leadership, but the gains that IM capabilities can deliver, in terms of less congestion, safer streets and economic growth, warrant close examination by key stakeholders in the industry.

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