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Transport agencies need to move quickly in order to play their role bringing people back to work in the post-Covid19 era. What they need is disruption.


Uber has been one of the great examples of a tech disrupter during the past 10 years. Innovative proposition? Check. Ability to shake up a staid industry? Check. Soaring market cap? Check? Inability to turn a profit? Check. Moronic founder? Also check.


Contrary to what you might expect, the ride-sharing company’s share price is up from where it sat at the start of the year – $32.35 compared to $30.99 – showing the market believes coronavirus has not dented its value.


This dovetails with what my colleague Sue Weekes was told this week by the head of on-demand vehicle routing and management platform Routable AI. James Cox is an Uber veteran, but thankfully shares none of the character flaws of his one time boss, and unsurprisingly optimistic about the role AI technology can play in managing public transport networks.


He has a point. This recent McKinsey article demonstrates the difficulty public transport networks are in as they seek to bring people back to work or travel. Or rather difficulties – from making buses or trains with considerably fewer passengers economically viable, actually encouraging passengers back in the first place to absorbing the financial losses that will persist for years to come.


One suggestion is monitoring scheduling and reacting appropriately, which is where artificial intelligence (AI) could work. AI could offer a more dynamic way of predicting passenger demand, rolling out more services when needed and rowing back when necessary. Other services are available. Danish rail operator DSB’s app allows users to see which carriages are the emptiest. McKinsey suggests this app helped increase passenger numbers by six percent during the first week of lockdown.


Countries are trying to nudge their populations back to work to try and absorb the effects of what is widely predicted to be a catastrophic economic downturn. Transport agencies need to move quickly in order to play their role bringing people back to work. What they need is disruption.



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