Living in the UK, especially within built-up areas - like cities, means you have a wide range of transport methods available to you. The transport industry has always been fairly innovative when it comes to onboarding new technologies, aiming to make the public transport experience as quick, easy and painless as possible for example, the introduction of the Oyster Card. But, with the UK roads being amongst the most congested in Europe, we have a way to go until we are truly using intelligent transport.
As technology evolves, current travel methods are beginning to feel outdated. Smart infrastructure is collecting valuable data about the way our cities work and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is analysing this data to discover how our transport links can improve efficiency and reduce cost. Here are a few startups leading the way in transport innovation:
Zeelo is an AI-powered transport service providing on-demand coaches. Aiming to change the way we travel to cities and events, Zeelo utilises big data to discover when travel demand isn’t being met by existing transport providers and fills the gap. Users select the event or destination they wish to travel to, choose their pickup location and securely pay online - with no booking fees.
One of the many qualms travellers have with public transport is over-priced, over-crowded routes with restricted pickup points. Zeelo aims to combat these issues by providing quick, cheap direct travel to your desired destination. By basing their services on data disclosing the public demand, Zeelo will reduce unnecessary coach services slowly combating congestion on British roads, and it doesn’t stop there. Zeelo is also aiming to run the first autonomous coach trip in the UK.
Founded by Chiltern Railways commercial director Thomas Ableman, Sn-ap aims to lower the cost of travel whilst simultaneously reducing congestion on our roads by only running coaches when there is a demand. The digital coach service connects travellers with local operators to determine if there is a need.
With a similar mission to Zeelo, Sn-ap could drastically reduce the cost, time and emissions surrounding public transport. With buses regularly running throughout the day, there are many services which are inefficiently used. Sn-ap could ensure that bus services run in a more productive manner. With smart city initiatives, these services will continue to improve and evolve, streamlining public transport services.
British startup, Autonomous Flights, is aiming to take our taxi rides to the skies with Y6S, a battery-powered, two-seater autonomous aircraft. With the concept vehicle’s planned debut in March this year and manned test flights expected to take place in September, Autonomous Flights will be the first in the UK to bring passenger drones, also known as electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, to British market - with Uber keeping pace working with NASA to test their flying taxi project by 2020.
Much like drones, VTOLs can hover, take off and land vertically. Y6S has a maximum speed of 70 mph and will fly at an altitude of 1,500 feet. The current restrictions set by the Civil Aviation Authority for drones do not extend to VTOLs, but conversations about future regulations are in early days, therefore, at this stage, it is unclear what these will look like. Once clear pathways and routes are located and the vehicles have been thoroughly tested, it is very unlikely the regulations will be restrictive for commercial flights taking place.
HackTrain is an initiative by HackPartners in which hackathons, conferences and programmes are run to gather skilled developers, designers and entrepreneurs together to combat the problems with our rail service. The B.A.R.R.I.E.R.S report produced by HackTrain details the barriers put up by our current rail service and innovations and solutions on how to combat these issues.
These innovations represent how developments within AI, IoT (Internet of Things) and robotics can drive change within routine practices. These startups are rethinking the transport model by introducing ways to analyse the efficiency of a current system and look for ways to improve.
As smart cities become a reality, the data sources put in place will only aid these initiatives by providing more insights. If our city’s infrastructure utilised ideas such as smart lamp posts or smart buildings, the amount of data made accessible would be astronomical. The use of AI within transport will also improve over time. Much like the way our brains work, machines learn and improve by repeating tasks.
Vivacity Labs are one AI-tech startup looking to aid these transport initiatives by providing data. The startup creates sensors with built-in machine learning which help identify road users and manage traffic. The sensors will be able to give priority to cyclists, buses or ambulances, help make Lorry drivers aware of other road-users, and alert driverless cars of crossing pedestrians, improving safety and efficiency on our roads.
As our world gets busier, a more cost-effective, efficient way of running public transport is desperately needed. The technology available today means that intelligent transport is soon to become a reality and with the amount of money being invested in travel technology, the race to be the first business to introduce revolutionary transport technology is truly underway.
If you would like to find out more about how transport can benefit from the capabilities of emerging tech, get in touch with one of our digital experts today!