Three Transportation Tech Trends That Will Shape Cities And Countries

Three Transportation Tech Trends That Will Shape Cities And Countries

Across cities and countries, technology and transportation have become increasingly interwoven. From digital ticketing to ride-hail apps, technology has made it so transportation is more widely available, easier to use and drives us toward a more sustainable world.

For the past six years, I’ve had the privilege to lead Modeshift, a technology company that enables transit agencies to provide intelligent transportation services, and a unique opportunity to observe, innovate, develop and implement solutions that reshape the public transportation sector.

While the transportation tech industry has made great strides, I still see a lot of room for growth and several ways tech can continue to drive urban mobility and positively impact communities.

Adoption Of SaaS And MaaS-based Solutions

Undoubtedly, the most impactful advancement shaping modern transport systems has been the transition from legacy systems – outdated computing software and/or hardware – to software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based solutions.

Since legacy systems are expensive to operate and maintain and are susceptible to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, more and more municipalities are transitioning to SaaS-based solutions, which are generally more flexible, secure and reliable. SaaS solutions, such as contactless payments, also grew in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers preferred safer in use transit technologies.

However, with the rapid development and implementation of new technologies, there is an increased cybersecurity risk, as in the case of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority whose cloud-based computer network was breached. Along with new technology adoption, a clear and intentional cybersecurity strategy must remain a necessity for transit agencies.

Even further, SaaS is only the first step to modernize legacy systems. Some cities have also embraced another digital trend, mobility as a service (MaaS), which uses tech solutions to find the most convenient, efficient and timely commuting routes. Instead of purchasing individual tickets for specific legs of the trip, MaaS solutions enable commuters to purchase one ticket that covers the entire trip.

Vienna, Austria, is one example. The city leverages Wien Mobil app for its users to plan their trip by locating bus or train stops, self-service bicycles, car-sharing, cabs, electric scooters and available parking lots—all paid for by a single integrated fare. Similarly, in 2021, the city of Pittsburg implemented a two-year pilot program, Move PGH, which collects ridership data in real time providing the municipality with up-to-date information on travel habits and patterns.

However, there is more to be accomplished – the interoperability of transportation services is one of the challenges, and the efficiency with which computer systems can exchange and act on collected data.

Powering Smart Cities With Integrated, Actionable Data

Utilizing SaaS-based solutions offers another tremendous benefit to local transportation agencies: data collection and sharing. This access allows cities to leverage real-time data, like ridership demand and transportation patterns, to more efficiently plan bus or train routes.

Over the past couple of years, this concept has helped launch smart cities that utilize information and communication technologies, such as an IoT network, to increase operational efficiency and improve several aspects of the urban environment.

Data sharing in the smart city

While many cities are eager to embrace the idea of a smart city, some obstacles still exist – namely, siloed approaches in data collection. Currently, every segment of the smart city ecosystem is built separately due to issues like the lack of funding, modern policies or missing components to integrate legacy systems. Therefore, cities should take a good look at national data-sharing policies that enable a data-driven future to help urban areas thrive on innovation.

For example, Toronto’s Digital Infrastructure Strategic Framework, adopted in 2022, provides an example of an integrated approach as it encompasses the following components for leveraging data: fostering equity and inclusion; contributing to positive social, economic and environmental benefits; privacy and security; and democratic decision-making about digital infrastructure.

Austin, Texas, offers another example. Several forward-thinking technology efforts implemented there focus on data sharing—such as providing free Wi-Fi and 5G trials throughout the city and making several mobility components widely available, including smart stations that provide services for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Data gathered by transit agencies would be only beneficial, though, if it is shared and protected accordingly. Data privacy is critical here – transit agencies must commit to and comply with specific data protection regulations (such as the General Data Protection Regulation) present in their respective world regions.

Achieving Equitable And Sustainable Public Transport

MaaS solutions are a great first step toward an equitable and sustainable transit environment as they drive flexibility, accessibility and greater user experience.

MaaS can make riders less dependent on cars and, by doing so, riders would have more affordable ridership options at their disposal. U.S. cities, such as Charlotte and Houston, have implemented strategic plans designed toward assessing how mobility solutions create a more even distribution of transportation services.

By reducing the number of personal vehicles, MaaS can also help reduce carbon footprint. There are several cities around the world leading the charge in adopting MaaS solutions that bring cleaner, more efficient mobility. Londonand Beijing, among others, implemented congestion charges that incentivize drivers to reduce trips or find an alternate method of transport during peak traffic times. New York has recently followed suit, while Madrid and Oslobanned cars, with some exceptions, in their respective city centers all together.

While the innovations impacting the future of transportation are exciting, there are some existing challenges for MaaS adoption to become a reality. Researchers have pointed out an increased awareness of the availability of MaaS solutions, stronger public-private sector cooperation and improved social equity.

With those, public transit agencies would be able to lean into cloud-based solutions and data sharing and usage, which will ultimately lead to flexible, convenient and eco-friendly transportation solutions that enable lasting sustainability for the users and communities.

Read the article at Forbes Tech Council >>