Whether it’s leaving your car at home to share a ride with someone or planning your multilegged trip to work with a swift swipe of your smartphone, one thing’s for sure: our days of poring over maps and timetables, or stressing out alone in traffic, are numbered. The future of smart transport is here.
With smart technology now available at our fingertips, a slew of innovative concepts have emerged, each one dedicated to making the way we move not only easier, but more enjoyable, too. Ride-sharing, car-sharing, logistics, parking, multimodal and driver services – these are all profoundly changing how we get around.
And, although there are other game-changing ideas within the intelligent transport space (autonomous cars, for example), these are the ones that have had the most impact on our everyday lives – so far.
Your ride, shared
Rather than taking your own car for a trip, ride-sharing involves clubbing together with several people to make that journey together in just one car. Originally pioneered in the ’40s as a way to conserve resources for the US war effort, ride-sharing is back in a big way – thanks in part to the booming sharing economy.
For such a simple idea, the impact is huge. It saves money on the costs of owning a car (privately owned cars are largely underused, parked on average 95% of the time), is a boon to the environment and great for commuter wellbeing, with positive social interaction baked right into your journey.
The innovators: Liftshare, Zimride, Lyft
Getting a lift is like having a friendly chauffeur pick you up and drive you to work every day – for half the price of driving yourself.
Ali Clabburn, founder of Liftshare
Turning your car into a valuable asset
Not to be confused with ride-sharing, car-sharing tends to come in two flavours: companies offering members on-demand, 24/7 access to a fleet of cars, and individuals who share their own cars with others.
Like ride-sharing however, there are similar benefits to sharing a car. It boosts your green credentials, saving over 480,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions whilst reducing road congestion. But perhaps the biggest draw is financial. Car-sharing can save car owners a whopping £3,162 a year, according to Zipcar. So that’s complete flexibility, less stress on the roads, cleaner air in our cities and more money in your pocket.
The innovators: Zipcar, Getaround, Turo
It’s cheaper to use an on-demand car service in a city than own your own car if you drive less than 9,500 miles a year
Kyle Hill, CEO of HomeHero
Simply put, logistics is the transportation of goods. Whether that’s global manufacturers shipping their wares, or a retailer delivering your latest purchase, new technologies and evolving customer expectations are driving rapid change in the way products are transported.
Skip back five years, and if you bought something and wanted it delivered, you’d have to choose between a postal service or parcel company. But with consumer convenience now ranking high on the list of priorities – thanks to progress made in other sectors like hospitality and entertainment – innovative ways to transport consumer items are emerging.
Supermarkets are using their own logistics to deliver orders with flexibility and low costs in mind; Amazon plans to make deliveries via autonomous drones in the UK; and smart delivery services use connected car technology to safely place items in customers’ car boots.
The innovators: Amazon, Asda
We spend on average 20 minutes looking for a place to park, which amounts to at least 730 tons of extra carbon dioxide polluting our atmosphere. Environmental concerns and fuel wastage aside, driving around in circles trying to find parking can be a nightmare. Smart parking services take all that hassle away. Simply tap in your destination and the app lists all the available spots (and electric chargers) nearby.
So, instead of wasting time and money searching for that parking spot in an unfamiliar location, smart parking helps you choose the cheapest and nearest option as well as get directions and read important information about payment methods, restrictions and real-time availability.
Parking innovators: AppyParking, JustPark, Parkopedia
The technology to create intelligent parking is ready. We’ve already created a cashless payment solution that reduces parking times from 20 minutes down to 30 seconds.
Dan Hubert, CEO of AppyParking
Tap your phone, hail a cab
Perhaps the most familiar of smart transport concepts, driver services have played a key part in the rapid rise of the sharing economy – so much so that the likes of Uber have become part of our cultural lexicon today. Helping customers to seamlessly hail and pay for a ride, driver services also allow users to track their cab in real-time, see how much their journey will cost upfront, and leave reviews for their drivers in order to encourage better service.
For those who used to rely on taxis to get around, driver services have revolutionised the sector. No more waiting around in the hope that a taxi might come along, no more balking at extortionate fares once you arrive at your destination.
The innovators: Uber, Hailo, Lyft
Planes, trains and automobiles (and everything in between)
With so many transport options available to us, what we need most is a way to connect them all in a way that’s easy to use. Planning a trip that includes a metro ride, walk and a cab? Multimodal services take into account all the factors of your journey, from what time your metro departs and how long it’ll take, to the fastest route for your walk and the cost of your taxi. And all in real-time.
The beauty is in how multimodal services streamline your travel experience. Completely seamless, well-designed apps like Citymapper are a commuter favourite, making that dreaded daily journey a bit more effortless – less stress, less travel time. And with Helsinki recently launching the world’s first all-inclusive multimodal app Whim – a complete one-stop shop for travel – the future looks promising.
The innovators: Whim, Citymapper, Google
Multimodal transport could be the biggest change since we went from riding horses to driving cars.
Dan Sturges, transport designer
These all merely scratch at the surface of future travel. With virtual and augmented reality, increased computing power and ever-evolving connected technologies, the stuff of science fiction is already fast becoming reality.
From autonomous cars and smart cities, to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop – a high-speed rail concept that allows pods to reach eye-watering speeds of 700mph suspended on a millimetre-thick air cushion – a revolution in transport is underway. And we’re all invited for the ride.