Five smart transport trends for 2020

Varanasi Public Transport Hub

Transportation in 2020 is fast-moving and far more connected and networked than ever before. Globally, we’re seeing transport authorities, together with local authorities, carriers, partners, tech companies and businesses, actively contribute to the evolution of ‘smart transport’. Additionally, 5G deployment will accelerate significantly in 2020, helping to drive this evolution and thinking to upgrade transport-related connectivity for riders and operational use.

Innovation is transforming transport systems and networks and, ultimately, enhancing the rider experience. Deloitte predicts that by 2040, up to 80 percent of urban passenger miles could be in shared autonomous vehicles. So, how can transport leaders create sustainability and continue to move with the times?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released a community paper, Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure that outlined how to transport leaders could reinvent their industry. Suggestions included innovative and strategic partnerships, new technology and innovation, improved project management and asset management, and enhanced user experience.

Global leaders are already rising to meet these expectations. Singapore, for example, outlined a Land Transport Master Plan for 2040 that detailed its policies for enabling public transport to be the preferred mode of travel, expecting it to be used for 90 percent of all peak-period journeys.

In addition to the latest insights from the WEF, here are five trends that will help shape the future of transport this year and beyond.

1. Wireless connectivity turns wasted time into ‘bonus’ time

In global cities such as New York, Sydney, and London, the average weekday commute exceeds 80 minutes, and more than 1.5 hours in Toronto. That is approximately 6.5 hours a week – almost a full working day.

This is either wasted time or ‘bonus’ time.

In this case, it can be positive. Why? Because riders tick items off from their ‘to do’ list and free up non-travel time. A smart transport network contributes to the economy by enabling riders to get to work and, importantly, spend their travel time productively, whether that’s working, studying, or keeping in touch with each other.

In 2020, greater connectivity will open opportunities for consumers and organisations to change working hours in support of career improvements or lifestyle choices. They may even be able to make work location and housing changes – all enabled by the increased efficiency of the networks.

2. Connected trains will be the norm

Riders in cities across the globe already expect more from public transport than just getting from A to B, and they believe that rail networks should offer wireless connectivity. When asked what makes a city smart, innovative transport systems (encompassing features like ‘smart bus stops’ and ‘intelligent transport systems’) top the poll globally. Therefore, it’s imperative to provide simple, reliable and secure online connections.

It’s a finding that transport authorities will take to heart in creating a more sustainable framework for the future.

There are two main ways to provide wireless connectivity to train passengers: dedicated trackside networks, and existing cellular networks that work in conjunction with dedicated onboard equipment. The transport authorities’ decision between the two will firstly consider passenger requirements, cost, and carrier co-operation. It will also have to factor in the state of existing cellular infrastructure, demographics and expected use, and availability of land and other resources.

Either way, riders can expect their connection to be as seamless as possible.

3. Benefits beyond the rider experience

Providing better continuous connectivity in 2020 across networks will allow transport authorities considerable operational and safety benefits, in addition to improving the customer experience. These stem from real-time data feeds from trains in motion and internet-connected sensors.

Real-time CCTV monitoring (facial recognition, behaviour analysis) improves safety and security. As does the ability to coordinate emergency services and place crews within a station and from one station to another.

Pre-emptive train maintenance thanks to IoT-connected sensors can prevent costly breakdowns and optimise fleet usages, such as monitoring doors, brakes, wheels, and cooling systems. Wireless connectivity enables accurate train arrival systems that can be used to direct passengers to the most suitable services. Real-time service updates, incident responses and other services help authorities reduce cost and improve operations and passenger service. Data fed back to the operator also enables continuous improvement.

4. Smart urbanisation

To be great these days, a city needs to be ‘smart’. This means that cities need to accumulate ‘smart’ infrastructure that can produce insights revealed by predictive analytics derived from connected devices, platforms, and networks.

This knowledge leads to improved stewardship in urban development by deepening our understanding of how technology and supporting infrastructure relates to an improved quality of life – for future generations, as well as today’s.

The increasing urbanisation of cities combined with rapid technological change puts pressure on urban policymakers to ’get it right’. Subsequent economic and social adjustments can also offer citizens a better opportunity to participate in and contribute to sustainable urban development.

5. It’s still all about people

Operational benefits from connectivity will also, ultimately, return to the rider by providing safer and more efficient services. The customer experience is a key factor in public transport’s competitiveness against other options, such as driving or ride-sharing services, especially as their popularity is predicted to increase this year.

Public transport expert Adam Cohen notes that with innovation comes expectation: “In addition to safe and reliable transportation, passengers are increasingly expecting amenities, such as good lighting, security, and wireless connectivity”.

If the overall experience isn’t good – or at least satisfactory – then passengers will explore other means of transport.

What makes a truly smart transport system is how key stakeholders and decision-makers use these advancements to improve the lives of riders and citizens. Innovative transport systems are a defining feature of ‘smart’, world-class cities and citizens require continuous connectivity and innovation to realise the benefits of living in such cities.

The evolution of these five trends will support governments and the global transport industry in building a better world for the future.