Netsells Roundtable: The Future of Transport & Mobility

Scott Batchelor

Last week, we hosted a discussion about the future of transport and mobility across the globe, dissecting the ways that data collection, analysis and sharing will re-imagine the ways that we approach travel.

Together, the technology professionals redefining the space, the decision-makers at the helm of some of the world’s most prominent travel businesses and industry fanatics with a keen interest in the development of the sector discussed the future of transport and mobility.

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The future of global travel

It’s no secret that COVID shook the transport industry. In some cases, public transport passenger numbers were as low as 5% of their normal levels due to lockdown. 

Throughout that time, many public transit services continued to operate at a loss, primarily to provide transport options for key workers, but also to make use of existing infrastructure, rather than paying to maintain it without it being in use.

Traffic levels have returned to a stable number, but are not yet consistently what they were pre-COVID. One attendee noted that they had consistently seen around 70% of their usual traffic consistently, but public events such as the Christmas markets were providing the first occasions where traffic is 100% of what is what prior to COVID.

The landscape of transport has changed, and technology is proving crucial to understanding the changing mentality of commuters.

Digital infrastructure allows us to account for (and predict) lasting changes brought about by the pandemic, such as the the days of the week commuters are now likely to travel, the amount of time they’re likely to spend in a physical location (such as an office environment), and the overall decline of ‘peak times’.

Without tech- and data, in particular, it is no longer possible to account for when people, by and large, will be using transport systems. The predictability of the 9-5 rush is no longer applicable.

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Re-imagining the high street as a central hub

The high street has changed dramatically over the past few years. 

As online infrastructure boomed through COVID, many businesses were forced to shut physical locations to survive the unforgiving business landscape. Now, the transport and mobility sector has the opportunity to breathe life back into the nation’s highstreets.

Speaking on how previously disparate transport systems will now be linked together with dedicated mobility routes, one respondent spoke on the opportunities this will have for turning the high street back into a central hub:

‘Thinking of how transport is currently linked together- it’s not linked as efficiently as it could be. You might have to hop off a tram and walk through a housing estate to get to the next closest station. You might miss the end of an event because the local transport stops service too early.

We analysed the data on this, and crunched the numbers to find that actually, it's a reason that people don’t use the smaller stations. They go straight to larger transport hubs so that they can go direct, even if this means going out their way.

By linking those smaller connections together, we have the opportunity to direct traffic and attention through these high streets that are struggling. By bringing additional customers and revenue, we could see retail and transport working hand-in-hand.’

Once again, feedback, data and analysis are crucial to this. Identifying new avenues for localised transport will reduce the strain on larger stations such as Picadilly. 

In the run-up to HS2, our major railway lines are under immense pressure. This could be alleviated through more people using localised routes and making changeovers, but this process currently lacks convenience.

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How to Use Data & Analytics in an Increasingly Private World

One respondent identified their use of data-matching: The use of large-scale, anonymised data sets as a method of dealing with new restrictions on third party data collection, and providing an interconnected experience that spans multiple user touch points- both inside and outside their own business.

New restrictions outlined by Google mean that businesses can no longer use complete data from sources that are external to their main business. In the case of transport and mobility, this can be a catastrophic change, as interconnectivity sits at the heart of travel as a concept.

However, what this doesn’t attend to is the fact that a lack of connectivity is oftentimes a business issue, rather than a tech issue. Whilst transport businesses may have survived in the past without sharing their data, growing user demands for streamlined booking may force them to adapt.

In order to provide the interconnected, or ‘door-to-door’ experiences that users want, transport businesses need to be more open about the way that their data is collected and used. All too often, businesses act in isolation, forcing customers to visit multiple vendors and organise their own transport plans.

Provided data is sanitised and dealt with appropriately (through methods such as data matching, collected within data protection regulations), travel and mobility businesses could now have the opportunity to collaborate to create a drastically improved user experience, without compromising sensitive information. 

This paves the way for a new approach to travel, where data not only informs the customers digital experience, but improves the accessibility of transport in general.  

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Tech as a tool for sustainability

Users are becoming more savvy on the environmental impact of travel, and are now looking to reduce their carbon emissions. However, usability and accessibility are still the most important considerations for commuters.

A sustainable approach will come to be expected- without compromise to the convenience of existing transit systems.

Commuters will expect to take journeys in the knowledge that an eco-friendly mission is being worked towards, and that their use of a mass transportation system is not having a significant negative impact on the environment.

Businesses must also account for the rise of electric vehicles. Personal transportation has come under scrutiny in the past few years due to its disproportionate effect on carbon emissions, with commuters being pushed to opt for public transport. However, this may be about to change. 

Increased availability of EV chargers, along with co-signs from some of the country's largest logistics companies, and the possibility that autonomous EV vehicles will be commonplace in the future, has turned public attention to the possibility of using all-electric modes of transportation.

That being said, the infrastructure for a mass uptake in EV vehicles is not yet ready, and gathering data on personal vehicle usage is incredibly difficult. This is where technology can be used to the advantage of mass transit business

Transportation businesses have the opportunity now to use technology to define their offering, to prove the advantages of sustainable mass transit and provide additional convenience to the commuter. In using a data-driven approach, public transport systems have the potential to create a service far more tailored to their customers needs.

 

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