How the transport model of the future is being led by the taxi industry
Safa Alkateb, CEO at Autocab, discusses how connecting different modes of transport will ensure a seamless network, but first, lessons must be learnt from the taxi industry.
Hardly a week goes by without a story being splashed across the news about the latest developments in autonomous vehicles. With constant innovations being announced by companies such as Tesla and Ford, it’s a topic that captures our imagination, offering us an exciting glimpse into the not-so-distant future.
But while we continue to ponder how technology could revolutionise privately-owned vehicles in years to come, we might also ask what will happen to the rest of the transport industry. The population is continuing to grow, so our towns and cities will only become more congested. Rather than relying on our own vehicles to get around, we’ll need access to a variety of mobility options.
This is where the concept of Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) will come into its own. It’s a model that encompasses all transport, the future of which will enable convenience, flexibility and affordability when travelling. Users will be able to access a single mobility service on demand and view details such as journey times and the cost of their trip via one integrated app. From being picked up by an automated vehicle at home, to getting dropped off at the train station, then riding a bus in town, connected services will enable people to get from the start to the end of their journey seamlessly.
That’s the intention. The question is, how are we going to reach this point?
The first steps are in place
To a certain extent, the groundwork for this future ‘as-a-service’ model has already been laid down. Current ride-sharing and car-sharing services offer the public a convenient and affordable alternative to driving their own vehicle. Technology enhances our experience in scheduling and fulfilling these journeys – in many cases, you can log into an app to check journey times or see where the nearest vehicle is.
We have embraced these newer methods of transport, and will soon see more of these on-demand services entering the market. For example, the recent trial of a driverless bus1 by Stagecoach highlights the gradual shift we are making towards a TaaS run future. But we’ll need to continue building connections between all modes of travel to ensure everything runs smoothly.
As key players in the mobility space, taxi firms are well-placed to lead this transport revolution. They are ideal facilitators, helping us get to where we want to be in the future.
For this complex future model to work smoothly, all elements of the transport network will need to come together and work in sync. Integrating multiple transport options in such a way will make it easier for the consumer to get from A to B. We’ll be able to see everything in one place and pay for an entire journey in one app.
The great news is that the technology taxis use already leads the way towards a frictionless transport system. With automated booking and dispatch systems, taxi firms can work in tandem with car rental companies and car-sharing services to keep costs and time down. Pick-up and drop-off services, for holidays, business travel and car rental pickups, for example, will become a lot easier to manage with collaboration between these transport partners.
Valuable data within taxi firms
The TaaS network of the future will rely heavily on how organisations use data. We’ll need up-to-date information on vehicle locations and public transport for trips to run smoothly. Not only that, personal preferences will need to be communicated between individuals and transport providers, so that they are offered the best possible solution for their journey. We’ll need to know where users are going, and how often. Sharing information will therefore become essential for journey planning.
With the vast amount of information they hold on individual trips, taxis are an excellent source of data for smart city planners who are preparing for the future transport infrastructure. Every day, taxis are making millions of journeys, each one personalised for the customer.
Taxis were the first innovators in TaaS – arguably they have been providing a Vehicle-as-a-Service for decades. They were the first to track how and when people made their everyday trips for work, travel and leisure. Because of taxis, we also know the most well-used routes around our towns and cities. And, crucially, we know when people use them – and when they don’t.
Those people now responsible for moving us towards a ‘smart’, frictionless, future of mobility would do well to follow in the footsteps of taxis. The taxi industry really is the best friend transport innovators didn’t know they had.
Safa Alkateb was appointed CEO of Autocab in 2012 and brings over 23 years of experience in the communications industry. Prior to Autocab, Alkateb was the Founder and President of Parallogic Corporation, a multi-core software development company which was acquired by Cavium Networks.