Buckle Up: Imagining a smarter future for transport
November 27, 2018
Our transport network is experiencing a double whammy of transformational change. Yes, there is an unprecedented amount of infrastructure being planned and built. But the potentially bigger change is as a result of innovation.
New technologies, changing customer expectations and new business models are fundamentally changing how transport infrastructure is built, operated and maintained; how transport operations - mode by mode - are provided, as well as how we use these to move around. And wrapped around all of this are the implications for the changes to institutional and governance arrangements that make the whole transport ecosystem work.
Some examples of how transport is already changing include:
- Customers’ expectations are unrecognisable from even just five years ago. The range of modes available grows year on year. And how customers ‘consume’ transport is changing as Millennials become the prominent ‘transport active’ segment. From the launch of dockless cycle hire schemes, through the use of electric bikes and now e-scooters, to on-demand bus services from CityMapper and others and the emerging use of drones for urban deliveries, transport as a service provision is becoming ever important.
- The construction and maintenance of roads, railways and other transport infrastructure has also started to change to take advantage of new technologies. Blockchain is being used to create secure supply chains and smart contracts. Drones with high-resolution cameras can gather asset data, deploy robots to complete construction and maintenance works, and monitor operations. And 3D printing of materials is already giving way to 4D printing which can change over time, such as self-healing concrete or water resistant-adaptable roads.
But this is only the beginning…
This rate of change, enabled by key societal trends and a dozen or more disruptive technologies, will increase over the coming years. The impact of innovations such as holograms on how we work, and of population growth in major cities will fundamentally change the nature of demand for both people and freight transport.
Connected and autonomous vehicles (for people and goods), mega drones, driverless digital railway-enabled trains and integrated travel service providers will dominate the transport market. Self-repairing roads and railways will no longer require roadworks or overnight possessions. Customers will pay based on their chosen ride quality and the externalities of their trips, the supply chain will be paid automatically on verified provision of asset, and transport service operators on measurement against an agreed availability model.
This will be enabled by an Internet of Things environment linked via ‘always on’ 5G or even 6G mobile broadband. Sensors across the network and within individual transport modes provide a richness of data that enables effective real time routing and ride sharing, as well as predictive maintenance.
This level of innovation will be enabled by an entrepreneurial environment, where individual companies will create new services and capabilities. The regional growth agenda will allow more decisions to be taken by individual cities and regions spurred by domestic and international competition for businesses and jobs. In this context, central government will then seek efficiencies and service consistency by using regulation to provide a degree of control across what will be new markets and business models.
Over the next few months PwC colleagues will be reimagining the future of transport through a series of blogs exploring some of the key questions and issues affecting the sector. How can big data help passengers find the most cost-effective means of getting from A to B covering multiple modes? How can the public and private sectors collaborate to fund and deliver transport infrastructure and services of the future? And how can we ensure that future transport services support a stronger and fairer UK?