Monday Musing - How technology is transforming the way we travel

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Whether we like it or not, technology and the collection and use of data is transforming every aspect of our lives. In business, government and society, increasingly we are using some form of application and the resulting statistical analysis to help us work better, get smarter and go for longer, allowing us understand how, why and when we should make improvements.

Congestion can have a huge impact on business, in time wasted and money lost, so managing that through better data and more accurate sources of information can only be a good thing. David Metz, visiting professor at University College London and former chief scientific advisor at the Department for Transport (DfT) argues that much more could be done to reduce traffic congestion by making better use of existing technologies and government agencies such as Highways England needs to turn its historic data into more useful predictive traffic information.

This presents opportunities for developers and companies to take advantage of the masses of vehicle and pedestrian movement now accumulating. The right applications can assist transport planners to forecast more accurately and plan for future investment in roads and smart cities. The DfT’s own assumptions, that road traffic in England will grow by 43% by 2040 were based on three key drivers - population growth, economic growth and fuel costs – but as we have seen, there is no guarantee of financial stability let alone prosperity and whilst car sales may have risen at their highest rate for 10 years, the reasons and necessity of owning a vehicle are already starting to change.

Technology, in some part, is to blame, as more people choose to spend their hard earned money on new gadgets both inside and outside the home. The car has become functional and for the often high cost, many are choosing a different way to get from A to B.

There is no doubt that technology and Big Data are growing in importance with companies developing platforms to utilise real time GPS data from connected vehicles to identify trends, assist in future road planning and monitor vehicle numbers. We are also seeing the connected vehicle fast becoming the norm as vehicle manufacturers race to ensure that the latest assisted parking and in car navigation systems are standard, something that’s true for many models that are already on our roads and which will increasingly be the case for future models currently being developed.

Yes there are many popular applications that work outside of the car such as weather forecasts, mapping and travel information and these allow consumers a choice as to when and where they use them. But the move to integration is consumer led – just look at how TVs have evolved. Like many forms of technology, what lasts into the future will be very much driven by consumers and their acceptance of its usefulness and if it really is transforming our lives.

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