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Demystifying digital in the future of mobility and transport
Global | New Delhi

Demystifying digital in the future of mobility and transport

11 Oct 2018

Frictionless, automated, personalised travel on demand: that’s the dream of the future of mobility and transport. But how do we get there?

Damodar Sahu, Research Scholar at SunRise University, India, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Mahapatra at SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India urge today’s transport service providers to quickly identify their role in the new mobility ecosystem and be ready to drastically transform how they operate.

We need transport for all 

Traffic congestion is a growing problem worldwide and unless policy makers and transport officials make some drastic changes, it will rise to an unacceptable level by 2030. In Mobility First, Sam Staley and Adrian Moore explain the inefficient systems and politics that cause this escalating epidemic and the NextGen solutions that will ease congestion and its troubling consequences.

This book considers transport policy through the intersection of four crucial and timely elements: 

  • Global Economic and cultural competitiveness

  • Urban development trends

  • Demographics and 

  • Transport engineering and design

“If we do nothing, the sheer number of people and cars in urban areas will mean global gridlock. Now is the time for all of us to be looking at vehicles the same way we look at smart phones, laptops and tablets: as pieces of a much bigger, richer network. — Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

Most of us hear about self-driving cars, ridesharing and other mobility trends, often derived from corporate initiatives. After all, they are the ones designing the vehicles and launching the Applications. But the public sector has a major role to play in making the new mobility and transport ecosystem work for every citizen.
In cities around the world, congestion is undermining mobility, imposing huge costs not just on commuters or people out to run a simple errand but on society as a whole. According to the Texas Transport Institute, the average American commuter spent 34 hours delayed in traffic in 2010, up from 14 hours in 1982. If things don’t change, commuters can expect to spend more than 40 hours annually sitting in traffic by 2020 and it is even worse in many Asian countries.

All told, the annual cost of congestion in America alone now exceeds $100 billion.

Mobility as a service (MaaS) 

The MaaS term has been the hot issue these days, and the reasons behind are 5G networks, V2X communications and mobile edge-cloud computing. Once intelligent Maas is realised, public transit vehicles like city buses will be able to collect and make sense of massive amounts of data from a huge array of sources, and there will be tremendous volume of data exchange on a daily basis. They may even communicate with sensors in response to signs like stoplights, bus stops, and even ones embedded in the roads to get traffic updates and rerouting alerts. They will act as a digital assistant to communicate with your device and gather information you need to go about your day. This is the reason why 5G infrastructure will realise Maas by promising enhanced mobile bandwidth, massive IoT connectivity and mission-critical reliability.

5G is an important building block towards the future of Mobility and Transport, both public and private, but even if it will probably be a decade before we will see it reach its full potential, the journey starts now in 2018. 5G is promising speeds at least ten times faster than 4G LTE, which will make it a game changer when it comes to delivering on the promise of autonomous transport and mobility. Highway updates, for example, will be delivered in milliseconds. Connected vehicles will be able to gather information from other cars, road signs, traffic lights and pedestrians as they travel through cities and use it to ensure a safe and pleasant journey. At the same time, it will enable autonomous vehicles to connect to networks in almost real time and talk to each other and their environment, which is paramount in areas such as accident prevention and optimised navigation.

Driving into the future 

“Disruption is now underway in urban mobility and is likely to usher in the most significant changes to cities that we will see in a generation.”

Fundamental to all these principles is a people-first approach focusing on how we move people, not vehicles, creating social space instead of storing cars, giving people choice and promoting healthy lifestyles and prioritising modes that result in a cleaner and more sustainable environment. By adopting these key principles, we believe there is the potential to reduce the amount of space needed to operate and store vehicles, while increasing the capacity to move more people through our cities. 

The era of digital in the future of mobility and transport 

No doubt the emergence of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will have new and exciting effects on patterns and modes of transport, but when it comes to measuring those effects, the future gets a little hazier.

In fact, as the backbone of globalisation, digitisation is increasing the need to move people and goods around the planet. Mounting pressure on transport as economies grow is leading to unsustainable environmental and safety trends. Transport needs are increasingly being met at the cost of future generations.
The digital revolution, which depends so much on efficient global and local mobility, also helps us rethink transport itself. To be a part of the solution to issues such as climate change, poverty, health, public safety, and the empowerment of women, the answer must be yes. 
Transport must go beyond being an enabler of the digital economy to itself harnessing the power of technology.

Key roles of government in the future of mobility 

Moving along the future of mobility maturity curve could yield significant benefits for government, with a more integrated, transparent and efficient transport system that enables economic growth and equitable access. But the path to get there, going from awareness to embeddedness, will look different for every agency and vary based on its mandate.

At the highest level, government as a strategist can shape the principles that will define what a city, region or nation wants its transport system to look like. For example, the World Economic Forum has identified 10 principles for designing a seamless intermodal mobility system that is:

  • User-centered

  • Designed to be adaptable

  • Uses open standards and protocols

  • Employs public-private partnership

  • Maintains the private sector’s ability to derive value from its services

  • Deploys agile governance

  • Taps innovative funding and financing

  • Measured using standardised performance indicators

  • Always improving, learning from others’ best practices

  • Positioned for growth

“Transport is not simply one mode that moves a person or a good from A to B. It is much more interesting and useful than that. It is a system, or rather a ‘system of systems’ connecting modes, services, technologies and designs according to the best option for the purpose. - Susan Zielinski, managing director, SMART, University of Michigan

Three scenarios for digital-age transport 

  • The Internet of Vehicles - Connected cars could do for the automotive industry what smartphones did for the phone industry — Andreas Mai and Dirk Schlesinger, CISCO
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Social transport — the transport system of the future will be built on collaboration among neighbors, communities, governments, and traffic managers on everything from traffic planning to signal timing to commute planning

Can the NextGen mobility and transport be the answer to cyber security issues?

The world of mobility is undergoing nothing less than a technological revolution. Such technologies pose significant issues, most notably cyber security. Hacking of connected vehicles and traffic signals regularly hits the headlines and news. Intelligent Mobility brings more challenges, not just related to technology.

As the business model for mobility shifts, cyber security companies will see new Mobility as a Service customers emerge. 

Approaches on cyber threats need to be very holistic; it is not a single technical measure that wins it all. The threats are as versatile and dynamic as the digital world around us, and public transport operators need to be very much aware that not only IT technology itself is the challenge or point of action. All parts of a public transport operator need to join forces and act in a responsible way to secure the system. 

Securing the new mobility ecosystem is a daunting challenge and the stakes are high. In a swiftly changing world, the future of mobility continues to become more complex, leaving many questions unanswered and many more unasked. Thankfully, many of the cyber risks posed by the future of mobility have been confronted before. By taking the hard-earned lessons learned from other industries, the extended auto industry can keep itself ahead of hackers and other adversaries.

What’s next?

Frictionless, automated, personalised travel on demand: that’s the dream of the future of mobility and transport.

Many players will compete for these new opportunities including the household names, and others who have not yet emerged. Some are already well positioned for the future, while others need to evaluate their capabilities and make strategic decisions based on what’s coming next. Those who are going to be successful should start now to identify what their role will be in the new mobility ecosystem, and plan to deliver the value the customers demand, even if it means drastically transforming how they currently operate.

Let’s gets started with this technology and see where it can lead us.