The world of transport is undergoing seismic change. Already more than half the world’s population, around 3.8 billion people, live in urban areas. That figure is set to rise by 1.6 percent per year, meaning that by 2030, our already crowded towns and cities will host an additional 730 million people.
This has huge implications for transport and logistics. Congestion already brings cities to a standstill. The delays it causes equate to a loss of two percent of global GDP each year. The air pollution it contributes to causes more than seven million deaths each year.
Change is evidently required. As the need for mobility in urban areas increases, smarter and more society-oriented transport innovations are being developed to overcome the growing problems of congestion and air quality.
The challenge is to manage the growing requirements for transport while at the same time limiting congestion and air pollution. Addressing this challenge successfully would have multiple positives, including spurring continued economic growth and improving people’s quality of life.
Hitachi believes that Social innovation, with its emphasis on collaboration between governments, businesses and people on the ground, is well-placed to identify the key problems and craft solutions.
A new vision for mobility
Mobility is set to become more integrated and more seamless, with new technologies being leveraged to provide customers with a range of travel options.
At the core of this is the strengthening of a culture of sharing: car-pooling, cycle hire and other modes of transport that are less focused on the individual.
This will have the dual effect of reducing costs for individuals and bringing into the mainstream a more sustainable means of travel around towns and cities.
The vision for the future of transportation revolves around four principle mega trends. They are:
- Urbanisation: The global urban population is set to reach 4.5 billion by 2030. There are already more than 40 so-called “mega cities”, metropolitan areas with populations of more than 10 million. By 2020 these will contribute $21 trillion to GDP.
- Social trends: The way people move around cities is changing. More inhabitants are walking, cycling and using public transport. This is leading to a reinvention of the use of cars in cities.
- Connectivity and convergence: By 2025 there will be 80 billion connected devices, smartphones, tablets and so on. The Internet of Things will impact positively on mobility by helping to improve efficiency, information and safety.
- Smart governance: New business models for transportation and logistics are coming about via public policy aimed at opening data, changing legislation and ensuring ongoing investment in mobility infrastructure.
All change in logistics
The four mega trends outlined above are combining to place new pressures on, and open new opportunities for, existing modes of transport and logistics.
Advances in technology, particularly in the field of connected devices, have had a profound impact on the customer experience. New smartphone apps designed to hail taxis, check rail and bus times and facilitate car-pooling are all contributing to making life that much easier for the commuter.
The next wave of development will move towards more automation in the network and in connecting vehicles to infrastructure and devices, thereby linking up a seamless vision of connected living.
The way we view transportation is also continuously evolving. Mass transit, buses, trams and trains, in a number of mega cities exceeds private transportation. London is a good example: 34 percent of trips are made by private car, with the rest by public transport, walking or cycling.
These changes to how we move around are helping in the effort to curb pollution whilst simultaneously making it easier to get from A to B. This is Social Innovation in its purest form, improving not just one but multiple aspects of our quality of life at the same time.
Smart future for transport
Social Innovation requires the collaboration of governments and businesses and the convergence of new ideas and technologies.
“Smart cities” collect masses of data. And many open their data resources to private developers. As a result these cities are best equipped to meet the changing demands placed on transport and logistics. This type of sharing ensures that innovative business models and transport solutions can be integrated into the city.
Governments will need to invest more in infrastructure. Projects such as high-speed rail that facilitate commuting are known to have significant economic and regenerative benefits. A network of high-speed rail and transportation hubs will spur the improvement of poor areas.
This in turn will lead to an increased demand for housing and services as the area becomes increasingly attractive for both investment and for commuters who can enjoy reduced journey times.
Forward march for integrated mobility
It’s unlikely to stop there. City, regional, national and international authorities are already collaborating to deliver an overarching integrated approach to transportation provision.
High-speed rail networks won’t solely bring commuters from outlying towns into major cities. They will eventually connect whole continents rather than countries, and unlock considerable economic potential in the process.
New technologies are meeting changing social and environmental needs to radically alter the way we move around. Mass transit is displacing private travel. Speed and timeliness are becoming ever more precious. And in the process the lives of city dwellers are being made easier.
The ideas in this article are taken from Hitachi’s whitepaper on Social Innovation and transport.
Our world faces a number of challenges, from climate change and pollution to population growth and urbanisation. Hitachi believes that it must help to find innovative and commercially viable solutions for these challenges. Visit Social-Innovation.Hitachi to learn how Social Innovation is helping Hitachi improve lives across the world.
Image under licence from iStockPhoto.co.uk, credit YiuCheung