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Will 2017 be the year of personalised travel?

Category: Lifestyle
Published: 27/02/2017

Innovators are beginning to understand that personalised travel – delivering extremely focused mobility solutions – is the way forward when it comes to future transport, and that providing a level of service that feels bespoke to an individual is fundamental to a smarter way of moving.

Personalised travel, which delivers efficiency, speed and cost-effectiveness; as well as variety, is also about making the experience of movement as seamless as possible, so that it no longer becomes a chore. It becomes an opportunity, which in itself can be enjoyed.

We’re already on our way to that future. We can book train tickets and plan journeys on our smartphone when it suits us – on the day, in the moment – and, all over the world, creative minds are working on various versions of a universalised system of planning and payment that encompasses multimodal travel (Whim is one example of this).

The more familiar we become with personalised travel, the more it will change our thinking about movement, delivering a positive impact on individuals and the wider world.

Why does it matter?

personalised travel

Well, for starters, travel habits are changing; slowly moving away from a reliance on cars, towards a world where these vehicles are one key part of a varied and easily accessible network. Megatrends are also forcing many to rethink the entire mobility ecosystem, setting up new precedents that will define mobility for years to come.

Travel trends by numbers

  • The average European makes 923 trips per year
  • While two-thirds of these trips made are by car, the number of miles driven has fallen by 8.5% since 2002
  • In 2012, the number of rail trips made in the UK in a year reached 1.5 billion. This figure broke the previous record set in 1923
  • If current trends continue, by 2025 that figure might reach 2.5 billion.
Source: Deloitte | Transport in the Digital Age (2015)

These trends are proving to be a positive catalyst for change, forcing and inspiring many to disrupt established way of doing things. For example, innovators are using new technologies to deliver big changes in groundbreaking ways, creating a new mobility landscape.

“Travel behaviour and preferences are changing and will continue to as we move toward more connected and automated mobility”

Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center

According to Deloitte, resultantly, there are two very different ‘future shock’ possibilities that will emerge. The ‘insider’ view says that cars will still retain their fundamental importance, though disruptive innovation will introduce incremental adaptation.

Meanwhile, the ‘disruptor view’ says that concepts like personalised travel, complete with new apps that break down barriers between forms of travel and sectors, look set to transform mobility at its core.

Insider and disruptor views of mobility futures

  • Insider view: The existing distribution of the transport industry will remain fundamentally intact, but with small incremental changes to test the possibilities of new tech options. Personalised travel will come online, but won’t stop people wanting cars – they’ll just be sharing them.
  • Disruptor view: There will come a tipping point where disruptive innovation will bring about an entirely new vision of mobility; one where personalised travel, autonomous cars and mobility apps totally transform the way we move, breaking down barriers between sectors.
Source: Deloitte | How transportation technology and social trends are creating a new business ecosystem (2015)

“Given the wide array of land uses and the built environment, private car ownership will still have a notable market for the foreseeable future,” explains Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

“But travel behaviour and preferences are changing and will continue to as we move toward more connected and automated mobility.”

An irresistible proposition

You can see why everyone’s so excited. It took about a decade for Transport for London (TfL) to include overland trains in their Oyster payment system. Imagine if an app could simplify payment and speed up mobility, and show real-time alternatives as well?

Khalid, 45, who commutes into London four times a week by train, tube and bus, would benefit from this, stating that “a properly joined up system would save me an hour each way on my journey”.

And, as more of us gravitate towards city living, or even just city working, finding seamless and diverse forms of travel are going to matter more, and matter to more people.

Millennials first, everyone else after

personalised travel

In particular, it’s the younger generation in cities that are leading the way with personalised travel, with many eager to use a multimodal approach. They don’t mind cars, buses, trains, bikes or walking; they just want mobility to be efficient, cheap and easy.

“They don’t mind cars, buses, trains, bikes or walking; they just want mobility to be efficient, cheap and easy”

Research has show that millennials, attracted by urban living, are driving distinct trends in transportation. Some key findings:

Key research findings

  • Millennials use all forms of transport depending on the type of journey they want to make
  • Millennials want to live in areas with good multimodal transport options
  • Public transport is favoured because it allows millennials to socialise, use digital platforms, and work as they travel
  • Millennials want personalised, reliable, and digitally connected travel
Source: APTA | Millennials and Mobility (2013)

Their preferences for mobility, as well as their emerging travel habits, will then trickle down to other demographics, as niche concepts begin to go mainstream. Again, some of this is in evidence now, with the potential of personalised travel apps filtering up to Generation X’ers and baby boomers. Sue, 54, uses Citymapper, Trainline and Uber to travel across two continents. “They’ve changed my life,” she says.

Challenges to personalisation

Good travel infrastructure is critical if you are going to make personalised travel work, according to a report by the Department for Transport. And that means an integrated system of buses, trams and train services, cycle routes and walkability, alongside cars.

“Many users see data sharing as a trade-off. They are willing to share personal data if they get something of value in return”

And naturally, there are worries about the big data loop when it comes to sharing digital information – like most apps these days, the system has to get to know you if it’s going to deliver the right information.

However, as a Pew Research Center study has found, many users see data sharing as a trade-off. They are willing to share personal data if they get something of value in return.

The future

Five disruptive transport trends

  • User-centered mobility services
  • Integrated and intelligent transport services
  • Digitalisation of pricing and payment systems
  • Cognitive technology, which will improve automation and safety
  • Partnership between public and private innovation.
Source: Deloitte | Transport in the Digital Age (2015)

The benefit of personalised travel is that it’ll make mobility not only easier and more captivating for people on an individual level, but for everyone who has to make a journey on a regular basis. The more bespoke movement becomes, the less reliant we end up on single modes of transport, and the better off we all become.