Alex Burrows

UK & Europe

Alex is a former director at Atkins who specialised in Intelligent Mobility and transportation - and had particular interest and experience in policy, strategy, client and government stakeholder engagement, technology and innovation. He previously worked for the UK Transport Systems Catapult and Centro, the West Midlands Transport Authority.

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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.

> To continue the discussion on Intelligent Mobility, please join our dedicated LinkedIn Group

UK & Europe,

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.

UK & Europe,

The 21st century has seen an astonishing rate of technological development. Looking back around ten years we saw the first smartphones starting to appear, the Oyster card was taking hold in London’s public transport provision and social networks were beginning to emerge. In the last 12 months alone the proportion of the UK population who now own smartphones has risen from 51% to 61%. Correspondingly 90% of the data that exists globally was generated in the last two years alone.

The transport sector is starting to see a number of trends taking hold which are starting to change how people perceive the role of transport and what it should be doing to meet their requirements. The rise of the sharing economy has seen car share and bike hire go from a niche market to an expectation of any self-respecting city. The application of big data analytics is creating space for new market entrants to develop new products and services that are taking on the established order and forcing them to assess their business model and their customers’ experience.

Across all of these emerging opportunities there is a major strategic opportunity for the concept of intelligent mobility to be applied systematically. To achieve this, the two central tenets must be observed:

  • the user and their experience must be placed at the heart of service design and delivery;
  • the transport network must be planned and delivered as a completely integrated system.

If we perceive the term ‘Intelligent Mobility’ (IM) as a method for framing our understanding of the role of transport as actually being a utility that exists solely to meet our mobility demands in order to undertake an activity at the end of every journey, then what is the practical impact for transport as a means to an end?

IM thinking changes the landscape, moving from transport as the provision of fixed services to an integrated system of mobility opportunities focused on delivering the requirements of every user in an individualised and on-demand manner.

One practical implementation of IM is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The goal of MaaS is to enable users to purchase mobility in an individualised and flexible manner with the user requirements placed at the heart of the service they are purchasing. It enables access to mobility rather than buying a car or season ticket and, crucially, is about helping the user to get around quickly, easily and flexibly.

MaaS inverts the traditional focus on transport as the supply of capacity on a fixed network of routes (railway lines, bus routes and so on) and instead designs and directs a transport system to meet the demand of every single user. The opportunity for MaaS to be applied has been enabled by the penetration of smartphones across the population and by the power of data analytics to be able to consume and make sense of the amount of data required to manage every user’s journey in the most efficient way possible and dynamically against how the network is performing and where the demand actually is in real time.

From the user perspective, MaaS fundamentally shifts the role of the transport system from the blunt instrument of multiple forms of supply to instead meeting the individual’s demand for travel for their whole journey. There is a helpful analogy – your mobile phone contract. Imagine paying a monthly fee to your network provider (it could be your city transport authority, or perhaps EE, or BMW) and you pick the contract that provides the right options for you, for example unlimited train travel, a certain number of bike hires, some use of carsharing and liftsharing services could be included in your monthly tariff, with some bolt-on extras available as and when required.

From the perspective of the transport sector, this could see a shift to businesses focusing on one of two areas – either the provision of supply of infrastructure capacity to enable mobility (e.g. trains, buses, car rental) or the customer-facing retail element as the mobility service provider (who would meet the user demand by purchasing capacity from the supplier in block and then tailoring a package to fit their individual customers’ requirements).

MaaS can fundamentally change the game in a number of positive ways and cities across the world are taking notice of this emerging approach to reimagining how we can improve mobility.

For more on this discussion, have a read of the white paper we have published on MaaS which you can find here.

> To continue the discussion on Intelligent Mobility, please join our dedicated LinkedIn Group

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