Today’s smart transport initiatives are beginning to have more in common with the humble bus
For many months, autonomous vehicles have been the talk of the transport sector. Byton introduced its all-electric, self-driving SUV, Uber announced Nvidia as the tech supplier for its self-driving fleet and General Motors launched a model without a steering wheel.
Recently, the bus hasn’t benefited from quite the same momentum. Restricted by fixed route, fixed schedule solutions that are very slow to change, the bus and coach industry has been exempt from the impact of fast-paced driverless technology and passenger demand. Statistics from Gov.UK found that the number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell by 1.5 per cent to 4.44 billion in the year ending March 2017.
But things are starting to change and the future of urban mobility isn’t just flashy driverless cars. Today’s smart transport initiatives are beginning to have more in common with the humble bus. 2018 promises to be its big year, as the bus remains a very viable form of transportation. In London, for example, buses are used much more than the very expansive and quite efficient subway system. The problem is that they have not always kept up with changing demographics and demand patterns.
The private sector has been working on a variety of solutions that can augment existing services and fill gaps in the public transportation network. A good example of this is Ford’s Chariot bus service in London: a pseudo-scheduled minibus system currently on trial, based on passenger need and available via pre-booking. In this way, they can ensure that their buses are always full and operating where there is sufficient demand.
In terms of getting more people on buses, the biggest factor is trust. Trust is built by providing accurate and timely information about the transport system. Much of the data produced by operators is designed to manage fleets of vehicles efficiently. A lot of work is required to transform this data into human navigable data sets that help guide people through the transit system. Creating visibility, transparency and ultimately predictability improves the customer experience and in turn builds trust in public mobility.
Johan Herrlin is CEO of Ito World, a company that delivers real-time transit data feeds to millions of people every day along with a platform for transit authorities and operators. By combining sophisticated algorithms with transport professionals, Ito World’s data is as close to the real-life customer experience as possible and serves clients ranging from MaaS startups to Google Maps. www.itoworld.com
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