The future of transport

Alex Burrows | 29 Jun 2015 | Comments

Tomorrow evening Atkins will host a debate with Sharing Economy UK to discuss the future of transport and the potential impacts of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy. It is a timely debate with a number of developments starting to change the landscape of the transport sector.

In recent days, Ford, Opel and BMW-MINI have all announced new car sharing services that will allow car owners to rent out their personal vehicles when they aren’t being used. With car manufacturers enabling car owners to do this could we see transport taking the lead and Airbnb looking to emulate by partnering up with house builders?

In Helsinki, a showcase for the emerging concept of Mobility as a Service, the Transport Safety Agency is proposing offering tax incentives to motorists who share empty seats in their cars.

The trend of growing user preference for access to mobility over ownership is now becoming tangible in cities across the globe. Car clubs, car and bike sharing, lift sharing, as well as other new services like Uber, Lyft and Bridj are all starting to take hold and becoming a normal part of urban living.

There are of course a number of wider issues to consider. Ensuring everyone has access, including the (ever-diminishing) non-smartphone users, is vital; using these trends and technological advances to increase connectivity and social inclusion should be a policy priority; and integrating these new services into a single network for users to easily access must be a commercial priority.

What will the growth of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy mean for users and for the transport sector? For users there are a number of significant benefits – a wider range of mobility opportunities, better value for money, greater flexibility to use on-demand services that can offer personalisation based on every individual’s preference. Imagine paying for your mobility on a pay monthly or pay as you go contract. Even better, paying for your travel at the end of the month based on what you actually used – in an instant removing the hassle of planning your journey to ensure you get the right tickets, pay the right fares and so on. Incentives to pay in advance could instead focus on paying for live demand – offering flexibility on either time or mode accordingly. For the transport sector, surely the time is coming to adapt. As mentioned above, the car manufacturers have quite clearly seen what the future holds and are adapting their businesses now. I predicted in our recent white paper Journeys of the Future that the sector would split into two: one group of companies managing the transport networks, infrastructure and service provision, the other group acting as mobility service providers acting as the broker of capacity for customers and ensuring that the user experience is the priority.

Our debate on Tuesday should be fascinating and I will follow up on this piece with a report of the event.

The follow up article on this topic is now available here.