In cities around the world, congestion is undermining mobility, imposing huge costs not just on commuters or people out to run a simple errand but on society as a whole. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the average American commuter spent 34 hours delayed in traffic in , up from 14 hours in The problem that confronts transportation planners is that adding new infrastructure capacity to relieve congestion is notoriously slow and costly. Given the environmental issues to be explored, land to be acquired, permits obtained, people moved, and construction undertaken, it can take years, if not decades, to go from conception to delivery.
Yet there are innovative new ways of making more efficient use of existing infrastructure already coming onto the scene. With this in mind, Deloitte convened a distinguished array of transportation visionaries, thinkers and doers to consider the various permutations of what lies ahead.
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The wide-ranging and thought-provoking discussion produced intriguing points of agreement about the features and qualities that the coming transportation system might contain—or, at least, might contain if we take full advantage of the technological and organizational breakthroughs that are already apparent. Coupled with new transportation capacity, the changes spurred by technological change and the innovations it inspires will help preserve freedom of mobility in the 21st century.
Services like real-time ridesharing and car sharing, for instance, are helping urbanites get around without owning a car—and are making the private vehicle a de facto extension of the public transportation system. New apps are allowing commuters to compare the time, cost, convenience, carbon footprint and health benefits across all modes of public and private transport, broadening their range of choices and allowing for on-the-fly decision making that takes into account real-time conditions. And dynamic pricing mechanisms for roads, parking spaces and shared-use assets are helping balance supply and demand, much the same way the airline and hotel industries have been pricing seats and rooms for years.
The result of these innovations—and of the ecosystem of creative players that have been drawn to transportation, from information technology companies to ridesharing pioneers to app makers—is that the mobility field will look very different going forward. It will be:. To take advantage of these innovations, policymakers must start laying the groundwork for a digital-age transportation system see figure 1. Americans, for example, take 1.
Whether because of personal choice or community design, the vast majority of Americans consider everything else—at least for their daily trips—a second-best option. Between and , personal vehicle use remained the transportation mode of choice, accounting for For one thing, the world as a whole is urbanizing: the United Nations expects that 60 percent of the global population will live in urban areas by , and residential density generally means reduced vehicle ownership.
In the United States, nearly 85 percent of Americans are expected to live in urban areas by , with over a quarter of them living in areas with more than five million people. There is a robust debate among thinkers focused on the urban future about whether the growth of central cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco represents a permanent shift away from the auto-dependent suburb or reflects a mere subset of relatively affluent, college-educated elites who are separating themselves from the middle-class majority that prefers the suburbs.
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To at least one venture capitalist betting on the future, the trends favor density. Time is more valuable. People want to live closer to where they work. This may be because, whether within cities or in the expansive suburban ring around them, the United States, as well as other countries, has shown little ability to get a handle on traffic congestion.
Efforts to improve matters by building or widening roads can take years to get into the funding pipeline, much less complete. What is most striking about the mobility world these days, however, is not that people are being forced to change their behavior, but that the enticements to change are growing exponentially. New possibilities and opportunities are transforming the transportation landscape see figure 3.
The most revolutionary changes are coming from the encounter of information technology IT with Waze relies on its users to crowdsource road conditions and show real-time information about speed, traffic jams, directions, and even the location of speed traps. Boston, for example, developed an app called Street Bump that uses smartphones to identify potholes and streets that need repaving as their owners drive over them.
There is no aspect of travel that is not being transformed by IT. Many of the innovations affecting transportation are geared toward giving individuals greater choice in how to get around. The challenge, then, is to harness the extraordinary innovation taking place to make far more efficient use of the existing transportation system. Just what that will look like is uncertain. But, it is certain to have some basic features. Given the pace of innovation and the sheer complexity of transportation systems, it is foolish to venture hard-and-fast predictions about exactly what these systems will look like in coming years.
But several key themes are emerging—not so much predictions as extrapolations from current developments. To take advantage of emerging technologies, broader social shifts and new business models, a reenvisioned urban transportation system is likely to have five key features see figure 4. Information is as much a part of the basic infrastructure of transportation as roads and rails are. Travelers need to know where they are and how to get where they want to go, whether on foot, by bike, by car, or by transit.
Traffic managers and drivers want up-to-the minute data on accidents, weather conditions, and traffic flows. Ridesharers want to know when the next possible ride is coming along. Planners and financial officers need to know how much it costs to operate a given stretch of road or transit route at any given time of day.
In a real sense, information undergirds mobility. The Internet of Things is already transforming automobiles. The true value of these technological advances lies not so much in their technology, however, as in their being networked. Simulations have found that certain traffic jams could be prevented by harmonizing speeds and smoothing driver reactions if 20 percent of vehicles on a highway were equipped with advanced ACC.
More advanced communication capabilities are not far off. The US Department of Transportation USDOT has been working for close to a decade to seed V2V technology development with an eye toward improving safety—trying to define standards, work with automakers and IT firms to craft pilot programs, and deploy enough models to determine whether the technology works as hoped.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will use the data collected from the first-of-its-kind test to assess if and when connected vehicle safety technology should be incorporated into the fleet. While automotive advances are reshaping the driving experience—ultimately, perhaps, turning drivers into de facto passengers—opportunities for transformation are arriving on the heels of the explosion of mobile technology and especially the rapid spread of smartphones.
In a sense, formerly clear lines—between humans and machines, between ownership and nonownership, between goods and services—blur when information generated and used interchangeably by people and machines becomes ubiquitous. Social media, in particular, creates all sorts of new possibilities. Susan Grant-Muller, director of research at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, argues that social media turns travelers both into consumers of information and a particularly useful form of sensor.
New transport models made possible by mobile phones, apps, and smart card technology, like car sharing, are taking a good that sits idle most of the time and turning it into something else. Eight, ten or twelve people can use that car. A massively networked system is already creating new ways of maximizing the potential of existing vehicles and infrastructure. The models enabled by a networked system have great potential to deliver concrete financial benefits to society. Carbon dioxide emissions would decline by roughly 2 percent in the United States alone.
With the rise of mobile technology and the Internet of Things, new dynamic pricing mechanisms that would have been inconceivable just a decade ago are now possible—enabling pricing based on such variables as time of day, road congestion, speed, occupancy, and even fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. By pricing different stretches of road or transit routes differently—based on up-to-the-minute conditions—cities can divert drivers and passengers to cheaper routes, as well as collect payment for what it actually costs to maintain a roadway or system.
From an urban systems perspective, it enables the effective management by price of available urban space and infrastructure while providing tools for achieving social equity and other policy objectives. The only way to do this, though, is to use emerging technology. Existing systems, they point out, adjust prices only at relatively long intervals and tend to cover only portions of a road network, thus displacing traffic to untolled roads. Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking , notes that not only do parking space regulations waste valuable urban land, but at any given moment, an average of 30 percent of the cars in congested downtown traffic are actually just looking for a place to park.
For that reason, San Francisco is garnering great attention for its SFpark program, which has installed networked meters that can sense the occupancy of each space in real time and communicate it—not just to potential parkers, but to parking managers who can adjust prices based on the overall occupancy of a given block and aim to set a price that keeps one or two spaces free on each block.
The first is that you cannot set the right price for curb parking without observing the occupancy The second is that small changes in parking prices and location choices can lead to big improvements in transportation efficiency. For that comfort and convenience, most Americans are willing to put up with the inconveniences of traffic, finding parking, and the cost of gasoline.
At the moment, transport solutions are designed, developed, and controlled by providers and government agencies, and users slot themselves into that system. Where roads go, when trains run, where metro stops are located, which bus routes get the most frequent service—all impose constraints on the choices that users can make. The technological developments of the past couple of decades offer the prospect of a very different paradigm—mobility centered around the user.
It needs to provide choices for the user. In other words, it needs to answer to the world as it is. Travel behavior is dynamic and multifaceted, and the provision of more choices that actually entice people—rather than forcing them into one mode or another—ought to lead to a more balanced, optimally used system overall. How you move a 2-year-old is not how you move a year-old, or a year-old with children. To answer transportation issues we really, truly do need to have a variety of possibilities. Making a dynamic, multi-modal transportation system possible requires a fundamental change in who controls information and how it is shared.
So to understand their choices and make quick decisions, users need access to freely shared, up-to-the-minute information. On the roads, this is precisely what companies such as INRIX and TomTom aim to provide: real-time information for subscribers about current traffic conditions. Users with the highest point totals are awarded free bikes, transit passes, and other goods funded by local government, businesses, and nonprofits that have joined in the effort.
All of these insert a social component into what had been purely individual decisions. The world is catching up to the notion that the centerpiece of a transportation network is the person or good that has to be moved, not the idiosyncratic needs of the organization that runs a particular mode of travel. Making movement as easy as possible means integrating a range of systems so that the transition from one system to the next is painless. It is much more interesting and useful than that. This is hardly far-fetched, given how ubiquitous this kind of connectivity has become in our lives.
Take banking and retail, for example.
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All these systems have standards and interfaces that permit information to flow. Establishing a well-connected system of systems will take work. It means making sure that a number of capabilities are in place: Roadways, parking spaces, cars and transit vehicles are equipped with sensors. And the agencies—public or private—that run the various systems make their data available so that others can use that data to build the applications that make it possible for ordinary users to travel easily, fully aware of their options.
The development of discrete systems is only a first step; it is their integration and spread that will produce real benefits. The hardest question when looking at the future of transportation, of course, is how change is going to be organized and paid for. Interestingly, you can see the outlines of an answer in the status quo. The assumption about most roads, bridges, and other auto-related infrastructure in the United States, has always been that they are a public good, and therefore should be funded partially by users through gasoline taxes and tolls, and partially through public subsidies ultimately paid by the general tax base.
Financing has been largely provided by the private sector in the bond markets. But in recent years, as the gap between available public funds and infrastructure needs has grown ever wider, another model has taken hold: the public-private partnership, or PPP, which involves the use of private sector equity and risk sharing.
If a new transportation system is going to come into being, government will neither be able to fully fund it nor take primary responsibility for it at current taxing or toll levels; it is having enough trouble just keeping up with the status quo. Moreover, the sheer complexity of a transportation system that works for everyone—unlike the current system—argues that many players will have to be involved. A transportation system that works for everyone must be complex and fine-grained at multiple levels—which means that there are a multitude of potential niches for private-sector involvement.
There is a sense of great entrepreneurial possibility in addressing the myriad problems created by the current tilt toward the single-occupancy vehicle model. Take just one small slice of the emerging transportation market: ridesharing. His company happens to be focused on the daily commute. For its part, the US Congress expanded the definition of carpool projects in to include real-time ridesharing. ITNAmerica, a not-for-profit, has developed an innovative business and payment model geared toward improving mobility for seniors, regardless of their income.
Similarly, a small constellation of firms—TomTom, INRIX, Garmin and others—are exploring different ways of guiding and informing drivers, whether through dedicated dashboard devices or smartphone apps or the new data hubs being installed in cars.
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Venture capitalist Ryan Popple and his firm, KPCB, got into transportation because they saw a similarity to a field they had been investing in—smart grids and renewable energy. We like the comparison of finding the smart-grid companies of the highway and roads system. Which is why there is also great opportunity for the public and private sectors to collaborate—for each to help the other where appropriate. There are clear payoffs to cooperation between the public sector and a company like Avego, which has worked with local governments and the federal government to launch pilot ridesharing initiatives around Seattle, in northern Virginia and elsewhere.
If we automatically make available stops along that route We are making the private car part of the public transit network. So what do these five features—massively networked, dynamically priced, user centered, integrated, and developed by both public and private players—add up to? What follows are less alternative scenarios than parallel ways of grouping developing trends. Now, Borroni-Bird points out, all this is changing. Power sources are diversifying to include biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen fuel cells.
As revolutionary as all this may be, though, perhaps the most game-changing possibilities lie in the fact that cars are about to join the information superhighway. Connected cars could do for the automotive industry what smartphones did for the phone industry. The market has recognized this. At the moment, much of the action is happening piecemeal, and much is focused on infotainment. Cell phone calls can be handled through the audio system; some manufacturers are using embedded modules to connect cars to mobile phone and data networks; others are making it possible to connect to social networking sites, Internet radio, and the Web in general.
But the possibilities inherent in vehicles connected to each other, to the infrastructure around them, and to data streams go far beyond entertainment, navigation, and roadside assistance. Toyota has joined forces with Salesforce.
Car sharing, more efficient fleet management, the capture of real-time traffic data—all are made possible by connected vehicles. Ubiquitous connectivity will almost certainly speed the day when cars are seen as just one piece of the larger transportation system, not the standalone vehicle of choice they are now. In other words, transportation will evolve beyond selling cars to integrating cars into a vehicle-to-grid system. All this carries with it the implication that as vehicles connect to the larger transportation ecosystem, make their drivers more aware of alternatives, and induce industry and government to think more systemically, the users of cars, rather than the cars themselves, will come to be at the center of transportation thinking.
Combine vehicle communications in single platform The road to that point, however, is long. To begin with, a car these days may be fully connected, but only because of a plethora of devices for telematics, radio, Wi-Fi, toll paying and so on. There is no question that both the private and public spheres are headed in that direction.
Private sector initiatives, too, are proliferating. Moreover, through the Car Connectivity Consortium CCC , leading automotive companies are working closely with mobile communications and consumer electronics companies to develop global standards for smartphone in-car connectivity. Of course, there are a host of issues that the market will have to sort out as plans develop. Will consumers prefer wireless embedded in the car—which allows communication with the car even when the driver and their smartphone are elsewhere, but which might also be outdated within a couple of years—or a way of linking their smartphones to in-car displays?
Consumers could use a mobile device via the car controls, as if the device and its apps were integrated into the car itself. There are other questions, too: What kind of software—apps or Web-based access—will developers use? What role will the cloud play? What role will the insurance industry play, given its interest in standardized usage data—as well as in the potentially costly matter of distracted driving? Progress connectivity standards There are also specific efforts around connectivity standards—which are already underway—that will have to bear fruit.
Google promulgated the standard, urban transit agencies wrote their data to conform with it, and a small army of college students learned how to mine the data and get it to anyone with a smartphone. At the end of the day, the automotive industry appears to have decided to take the classic standards route of adopting a standardized platform, and then preparing to compete on value-added features and services some of the latter doubtless on a paid subscription basis. Other standards efforts are also underway at the International Standards Organization, which has a committee responsible for intelligent transport systems.
Meanwhile, US European, and Japanese auto manufacturers and government officials have also met to talk about cooperating on standards for connected-vehicle technology. But cooperative efforts do not always translate quickly into concrete progress. But that may just be for vehicle to vehicle. While infrastructure providers are also working on cooperative systems—especially in Europe—it is far from certain that they will be ready anytime in the near future. Infrastructure-focused ITS initiatives, Bishop says, tend to take far longer than their optimistic boosters anticipate.
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