How data sharing is already unlocking the transport system of the future



by Safa Alkateb, CEO of Autocab

In July 2019, the city of Paris banned nearly 3 million cars from entering central areas of the capital. Part of a move to crack down on pollution coming from older diesel vehicles, the ban aims to improve air quality for residents and workers.

We’re seeing similar measures coming into play in cities around the world – London has its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Toronto has also rolled out a scheme to ban cars from driving through its urban centre.

With more and more of these initiatives being implemented – along with a greater awareness among businesses, and the general public, of the need to find more sustainable transport solutions – we’re going to see a big shift in travel habits over the next few years.

We should expect people to start veering away from private car use (and even ownership) in ever-increasing numbers, as they opt for shared transport options that offer a more sustainable solution.

The convenience of the car means it won’t disappear any time soon, of course, but a viable replacement is beginning to emerge. The Mobility as a Service (MaaS) model, which promises to give us all easy access to an integrated multi-modal travel network, is already starting to take shape. 

Creating a truly integrated solution

For this alternative to really catch on, however, we will need to enable a smooth-running mobility ecosystem – and access to transport and passenger data will be vital in this. We’ll need to integrate, and then analyse, the information that currently exists in the silos of separate transport systems.

This data will act as a cornerstone, allowing us to automate solutions, communicate accurate information to passengers and understand traveller demand – so we can improve the transport systems that keep people flowing through our cities.

It will also help us to create ‘one-stop-shop’ travel apps for end-users. These aggregator apps will allow people to search, plan and book travel across multiple modes of transport, using reliable up-to-the-minute information. Passengers will also be able to use their app to track vehicles, and adjust their routes and means of transport instantly – be that train, boat, taxi, etc. – to get to their destination in the most convenient way.


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Ensuring that a large, intricate web of distinct systems can knit together seamlessly, however, will require us to develop better ways of sharing data than we have currently. We’ll most likely need several new systems that also encourage transport suppliers to collaborate for the greater good.

Better traffic flow

As we look for solutions that can support this complex transport network, answers are already starting to appear. For example, in the UK we now have a powerful data-sharing platform in the taxi industry that is allowing passengers to book a taxi anywhere through one app – not just in the major urban centres but in rural and coastal regions too.

The iGo network works by allowing private hire companies to share fares with each other when they are not in a position to fulfil a job themselves. This has created a national network of more than 80,000 taxis in the UK, which is also generating a huge amount of trip data each day.

Sharing this information is not just helping passengers and taxi firms though – it is also providing insights to smart city planners and authorities on traffic flow, average journey times, etc. This data will be vital in the future, especially as we start to see the first automated vehicles taking to our streets.

Overcoming the roadblocks

With any information of this nature, we do need to give careful consideration to privacy. And, to gain public confidence, the industry will need to impose a framework that ensures data isn’t being misused. But there is no doubt that when end-users see the benefits, they will be willing to share. This is already evident with apps such as Google Maps, for example.

We will also need organisations to recognise the value to be gained from sharing their data. One great example is the work that Transport for London (TfL) has been doing in making statistics about its services accessible to others.

By opening up its data to software developers, TfL has already helped innovative companies develop new mobility solutions for the city – which according to research by Deloitte has helped to boost London’s economy by up to £130m a year so far.

Laying future plans

As we move into 2020, it is key that we continue to encourage closer collaboration, between both public and private organisations. By bringing data sources together we’ll start to see ever more unified transport systems and a truly connected mobility solution will come into being. 

We’ll need to review existing policies and regulations to encourage open sharing of transport and mobility data. But once we have established these principles, the potential of the MaaS model will unfold and a more sustainable transport solution will emerge.  

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