Wednesday , 16 October 2019

Innovations to enable better Urban Mobility

Transportation contributes 5-10% of the GDP in most countries and plays the key role in poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and sustainable development. It is therefore a key aspect of any city development. Like all other markets, even the transportation sector is undergoing transformational changes driven by technological advances, new business models, and new ways of engaging highly empowered citizens.

Transportation systems are moving from discrete un-optimized infrastructure systems to comprehensive IT-enabled smart cities that in addition to providing effective, optimized citizen mobility solutions, look at efficient resource utilization for water, sanitation and energy consumption.

On the demand side, citizens would like to use public transit systems more, due to high fuel prices coupled with problems of driving in high traffic. There is also a change in the perception of car ownership, especially for millennials. Citizens are willing to make informed decisions on how to accomplish their transit needs using available options of travel for their end to end travel. Smart mobile apps are making it simpler to access information about public transit and taxi services.

Venture investors have also put in huge investments into transportation services last year. Some of the big winners of these venture funds were Uber ($3 billion), Ola Cabs ($440 million, GrabTaxi($334 million), Lyft($250 million), BlaBlaCar($100 million), and INRIX ($65 million). An important trend in the transportation users is affinity towards collaborative consumption. Millennials own fewer cars than previous generations and prefer services like Uber and ZipCar that enable on-demand mobility without the capital cost of purchasing a car.

Technology Trends affecting Transportation Sector

Six technologies are converging on the transportation industry.

  • Internet of Things (IoT): Technical breakthroughs that lower the cost of sensors, improved processing power and higher networking bandwidth is creating a new phenomenon called The Internet of Things. These billions of interconnected sensing devices coupled with sophisticated data-based automated decision making tools enable smart environments. In fact, the first set of these pervasive sensors are likely to appear on roads, parking slots, in vehicles, buildings, schools, and different parts of cities enabling new data analytics solutions for smarter cities. The IoT transportation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.95% during the forecast period of 2014–2020.
  • Connected vehicles: In the third quarter of 2014, AT&T added more car data subscribers (500K) than smartphone subscribers (466K) or tablet subscribers (342K). These data plans deliver software updates to the vehicle, traffic data to the navigation system, and Internet connectivity to the passenger.
    Connected vehicles leverage sensors within vehicles as well within roads. Connections with other vehicles and with infrastructure can be used to provide traffic management and congestion control services. The UMTRI project in University of Michigan is experimenting with protocols and applications that can use such sensors.
  • Autonomous Vehicles:Autonomous vehicles are vehicles which can drive themselves without human supervision or input. The arrival of the self-driving car is expected to reduce car ownership and turn mobility into a services industry. Hands-free and feet-free self-driving cars, such as Tesla’s “Autopilot” and GM’s Cadillac “Super Cruise” are already on the road. Experts believe that fully autonomous vehicles are not far behind, and momentum keeps picking up. A project in Milton Keynes aims to install 100 autonomous electric vehicles between 2015 and 2017 to ferry people between train station and city centre. It is also believed that most autonomous vehicles will be electric vehicles. The ‘UltraPods’ at Heathrow Airport are electric autonomous four-seaters which ferry passengers between Terminal 5 and a parking lot.
  • Electric drive vehicles: The major uptake for electric vehicles has already started with companies such as Proterra providing cheap, quiet, and clean transportation for transit buses and local delivery trucks. There are also utilities services companies such as ChargePoint, Constellation Energy that plan to provide charging stations to make EVs more viable. It is predicted that the first fleets of autonomous vehicles will be electric vehicles due to their safety features, range of controls and appropriate design. It is expected that driver less electric vehicles would be the most appropriate vehicles to use for shared ride services.
  • Efficient Access to Multimodal Network: Mobile apps that integrate information from users’ calendars, locations, and travel preferences to solve the overall travel needs of the traveller using multimodal network of public transit and private taxis are becoming important. For example, just by proving real time relevant traffic information, INRIX and Waze improve efficiency of driving. Apps that solve the “last mile” challenge of public transit; apps that use crowdsourcing of transit data, mobile ticketing, and calculating prices for multiple trip options using multimodal networks
    are available now.
Use of sophisticated data-driven analysis and efficient planning can optimize both commuter travel time and infrastructure utilization, to cater to the large scale demand

  • Big Data and Knowledge Automation: Analytics over large data sets containing a variety of data types coming in as streams with sophisticated machine learning algorithms used to discover meaningful patterns for quick decision making, creative problem solving continue to be an important technical topics in the future. In general, there are plenty of opportunities for analytics and optimization tools to enable for service providers (such as transit provider, private taxi provider, education institutions, auditors, city officials) to meet their business goals. In addition, the most exciting possibilities and repercussions of IoT are expected to emerge from the data analytics insights provided by the amount of new data being generated, captured, and analyzed.
  • Xerox Innovations in TransportationXerox Corporation, a leading transportation services provider for the US public sector has delivered many transportation innovations in 35 countries. These include fully automated electronic tolling, smart parking management solutions, intelligent transportation services (for fare collection, fleet management, etc.), photo enforcement solutions (for red light, school safety, etc.), dynamic pricing solutions (for parking, tolling, etc.) and automatic license plate recognition.

    Xerox is now embarking on a new initiative to solve the mobility challenges in the cities of developing countries such as India, Mexico and Peru. They plan to facilitate this by seamlessly combining different modes of private transportation with public transit through multimodal trip planner and ride sharing. Two such innovations are:

  • Scheduling for Public TransportationScheduling buses is an important factor in running the operations of a public transport. The schedules of buses must be in synch with the demand for buses to ensure optimal utilization of buses and improved commuter satisfaction. The conventional pipeline of scheduling has been to first estimate the travel patterns of users using a manual survey or by other automated means (ticketing data, mobile phone data, vision based methods etc.) The data is then processed to understand the mean behavior of the commuters. The travel patterns are then used to produce schedules in such a way that buses make more trips during peak periods and the route between popular bus stops are served more often.

    In cities with large populations and limited infrastructure, the travel patterns and numbers can vary a lot between days. Hence, a schedule built on mean demand pattern becomes irrelevant for a particular day resulting in sub-optimal utilization of resources and commuter ire. In order to address this problem, Xerox research has come up with novel techniques that builds a dynamic schedule that responds to changes in the demand by introducing small alterations. Through innovative techniques of optimization, the alterations are kept small, so that the commuters are not inconvenienced. The resulting dynamic schedules translate into substantial savings for the transit agencies while keeping the commuters happy.

  • Multimodal Transportation with Ride sharingPublic transports have traditionally large share of total passenger travel, contributing up to three-fourth of total passenger kilometers travelled. With increased urbanization, improved affordability and rise in living standards, the transport demand is set to shift from traditional modes to new-age modes like hailing a ride-sharing, shared bikes, city metros, private shuttle services etc. A typical trip in near future will be an optimal combination of various modes to reach destination in a sustainable, cost-effective way.

    Xerox Research is working towards creating such an ecosystem to provide optimal and sustainable route planning involving various operators and providing access to a large number of transit modes. The aim is to provide a service that partially fulfills the need for a certain type of travel. The end users will greatly benefit from single platform that can help them access large number of modes of transportation. Xerox Research has also come up with novel algorithms and systems for optimal and dynamic route planning for on-demand modes of transport. These can be used for both optimizing the operations from a service provider point of view as well as for improving the user experience for on-demand modes.

Geetha Manjunath
Narayanan Unny
Nidhi Mathur
and Koyel Mukherjee

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