Andy Taylor of Cubic Transport Systems talks to us about the future of transportation and the role of Machine Learning and Biometrics to get you places.
Which Technologies will Transform the Future of Transportation?
The transport industry has a big opportunity to take advantage of emerging technologies to positively impact traveller’s experience.
In the future, biometrics could enable people to use their face as their ticket to travel. The transition is already underway in airports. Heathrow Airport has piloted facial recognition-based border control technology that can quickly identify passengers at boarding gates, while Sydney Airport is beginning a facial recognition pilot scheme to better streamline the identification process whilst boarding.
We are developing similar facial recognition technology as well as biometric systems such as palm-vein scanning and object tracking within the transport sector.
With public transport usage expected to boom, our future gating systems will complement the existing infrastructure at train stations by using these technologies to improve passenger through-put, thus reducing station overcrowding and creating a more pleasant travelling experience.
Although early experiments with blockchain technology have been in the banking industry, we are seeing its application grow in the airline industry. Singapore airlines for example are planning to roll out the technology for its frequent flyer programme whereby points can be used with other retailers.
The same principal can be applied in public transport. Cubic is working on a blockchain clearance system for transit systems. Commuters could use their Oyster travel card from London as a token to travel in New York, and vice versa. This would create a truly universal way of travelling whilst ensuring secure and correct fare calculations.
Then there is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The adoption of MaaS will revolutionise transportation and could transform the commuter experience.
What Exactly is “MaaS”?
MaaS should be characterised as a better, faster, more interconnected and holistic personal transportation process that can benefit cities, communities and transit agencies.
Despite many outside of the transport sector never having heard of the term, the concept is being discussed in government chambers, City Halls and planning authorities. The challenge is that they all define MaaS differently.
However, two crucial elements are often left out of the definitions. These are the role of the wider public transit sector and the role of local and central government bodies in delivering MaaS to their communities. This is why Cubic defines MaaS as a combination of public and private transportation services within a given regional environment that provides optimal, holistic and people-centred travel options.
What are the benefits of MaaS for commuters?
With the introduction of Uber and Lyft along with increased public transport options such as Crossrail, consumers have more options to help them from A to B. Yet the need for multiple travel passes or apps makes the situation complex.
This is where MaaS helps. It can enable end-to-end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge whilst simplifying how you manage that journey by having one user account. For transit operators, having one account tied to an individual passenger means a complete picture of their journey is available as-it-happens.
Public and private providers within a region are united under the same customer administration and payment infrastructure, while retaining control over fares and slashing payment processing costs.
By removing friction and offering choice in facilitating end-to-end journeys, MaaS encourages travellers to pursue other methods of transport than the private car, presenting a cost-conscious transportation alternative.
What technology is needed to enable MaaS?
MaaS will be underpinned by IoT, mobile and big data. Together, these three technologies are already transforming the way retail services and mass media are used today. Consumers already benefit from improved technology, especially real-time information and personalised capabilities at their fingertips. Also there is no reason why the transportation sector can’t also reap the rewards from improved technology.
With the increased connectivity in our transport networks thanks to smartphone usage and the rising adoption of IoT, vast amounts of data are being generated, if this data can be harnessed and analysed then it can be applied to improve operations. Just last year humanity generated more data than in the previous 5,000 years of existence.
As the speed of innovation continues, there could be too much data for humans unassisted to process in the required time frame. As the volume of data increases so too will advances in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning which can crunch the data much faster and draw more intelligent insights from the raw numbers.
Additionally, connectivity enables transit agencies to invest in vehicle-to infrastructure (V2I) technology that helps vehicles and their drivers make better sense of their surroundings, analyse traffic and weather information, thus helping make subsequent adjustments to the service increasing its efficiency.
Can MaaS play a role in smart cities?
Absolutely, because MaaS improves transport efficiency. A smart city will be judged on how efficient its public services are, namely transport. MaaS is therefore the natural transport process for a smart city.
There are also wider benefits for smart cities. For example, MaaS could reduce congestion in cities by reducing the reliance on private vehicles as our main means of transportation, also increasing road space. By encouraging people to travel by shared means of transportation or to enter car-pooling schemes, MaaS limits the number of private car trips and miles driven.
For city authorities, this makes predicting traffic flows and reacting to traffic events much easier. This then results in increased efficiency. Having less vehicles on the road will positively impact the environment and promote a more sustainable form of transportation. While also increasing the standard of living within our cities.
Additionally, the integration and aggregation of all transportation-related information from a variety of sources will give cities unprecedented insight into travel patterns. With the help of AI and machine learning they would be able to analyse and draw conclusions about how travel decisions are made and what influences them.
Having this full insight into travel data would also help re-route demand to assist those portions of the transportation network that are struggling the most. Cities could advise when a specific route is unavailable and offer useful alternatives that would get us to our destinations on time whilst ensuring it is the optimum choice for the entire network. The quality of route-finding services would greatly improve and enhance the flow of traffic through major corridors.