For the ‘Getting Around’ chapter of the Expert Outlook 2015 series we speak to Emilio Frazzoli, Kevin May and David Watts about the future of personal travel
Emilio Frazzoli is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics with the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, and the Operations Research Center at MIT
In 2015, we’ll see public transport making cities more efficient, and electric and self-drive cars will become the stuff of everyday life.
People will have access to more responsive public transport. With platforms like Citymapper, cities are becoming more user-friendly and easier to navigate. Cities themselves are also more willing make data about public transport available; this serves to better inform people about their travel options. The result? More people will rely on public transport.
The way people navigate their cities will continue to evolve in 2015 as new techniques for routing are being developed worldwide, and as travel becomes more transparent. Take Bridj, a Boston start-up offering a 'dynamic' bus service that analyses data about commuter patterns in order to designate its routes. Together with the widespread use of smartphones, developers will be able to design new apps offering better travel advice services.
Vehicle-sharing companies address a growing need for on-demand mobility as instant gratification becomes the industry standard
By integrating real-time traffic information, public transport schedules and taxi booking, apps will be more capable and better integrated with multi-modal transport systems. Transport, and therefore cities, will become more accessible and efficient.
New companies are disrupting personal transport from a variety of angles. By expanding what was once a localised trend within developed Western cities into Asia and India , car-sharing is a growing worldwide phenomenon. Vehicle-sharing companies address a growing need for on-demand mobility as instant gratification becomes the industry standard. This in mind, on-demand services such as Uber - which have revolutionised this market - will continue to grow in 2015.
With the increase in ride-sharing and fare-splitting apps (Hailo, Uber etc), people will start wanting to share and divide transportation costs as quickly and freely as they’d split a restaurant bill.
With platforms like Citymapper, cities are becoming more user-friendly and easier to navigate
Citymapper (2014) ©
Once the stuff of science fiction, automated cars are a viable option for the future. The UK and Singapore have announced plans to start autonomous vehicle testing programs on public roads as of 2015. These countries will consequently join the USA in boosting the development of this technology, which’ll hopefully lead to consumer-ready applications within a few years.
With Tesla and other manufacturers introducing all-electric vehicles for the general public, and Google and several OEMs developing and testing the technology for self-driving cars, self-drive and electric is the future. But self-drive capabilities won’t just be limited to new cars: several start-ups are now offering self-drive retrofit kits.
Kevin May is the editor and co-founder of Tnooz.com - a travel industry news portal. He was previously editor of magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK
In 2015, we’ll see further moves towards booking hotels and flights via mobile and tablets. A 2014 study revealed that 25% of American's had booked travel on their mobile or tablet devices, and this number is expected to rise to over 30% in 2015. During the first half of 2014, smartphone and tablet bookings increased by 20% compared to just a 2% increase for desktop bookings.
Travel brands will further embrace mobile by interconnecting travellers with other companies and brands whilst they’re on the road
Travel brands will further embrace mobile by interconnecting travellers with other companies and brands whilst they’re on the road. Whereas once travel operators sold you your flights and sent you on your way, now they’re just a click away to answer any questions or solve any problems you might have whilst travelling. By smartening up their mobile offerings in this way, travel companies will provide people with new and exciting ways to make all elements of their journey and holiday stress-free.
FlightTonight does just that: it allows people to search for and book same-day flights from airports close to their location. Given that spontaneous travel grew by 300% in 2014 and is expected to keep rising in 2015, FlightTonight embraces this trend as well as offering value for money and excitement.
Companies need to start offering deeper connections into destination services and products. HuiZuChe , for example, is a Chinese car rental company that bridges the gap between home and travel destination. The site is Chinese by default so Chinese holiday-makers can make arrangements in their native tongue rather than having to wrestle with a foreign language. By partnering with well-known car rental services such as Hertz and Aviz, car rental is instantly accessible to the Chinese market.
FlightTonight allows people to search for and book same-day flights from airports close to them
Sina, Creative Commons (2010) ©
Brands that will set the travel industry alight in 2015 are those that push the boundaries of what a travel brand should be, and cross over into new areas of the industry. For example, Marriott toured a 4D travel ‘teleporter’ in 2014, allowing people to virtually ‘visit’ far off lands via Oculus Rift headsets before committing to booking a trip there. And with smartphones and the abolition of roaming charges, the modern traveller is able to sort, arrange and understand their travel arrangements with minimal hassle.
David Watts is the Managing Director of CCD Design & Ergonomics. He applies the science of human factors to design projects across the rail, aviation and urban transport security sectors. He has been involved in railway projects for the past 15 years including the London Underground and High Speed 2
The biggest trend we’ll see in 2015 will be an increase in the use of rail services. Passenger numbers are going up enormously, hence the industry trying to keep pace with infrastructure improvements, improve reliability, provide capacity and better the basic level of service. More passengers means more expectations.
One of the real challenges facing the rail travel industry is figuring out how journey planning can link into real-time information. At the moment, the operators have their own ways of describing their ticketing structures, and it’s inconsistent. This is an integration and interfacing issue.
It’s amazing to me that stations and operators are still handing out paper tickets – I haven’t had a printed boarding pass for years. The paper ticket will surely disappear and instead tickets will exist solely in the cloud, on our phones or laptops
It’s amazing to me that stations and operators are still handing out paper tickets – I haven’t had a printed boarding pass for years. The paper ticket will surely disappear and instead tickets will exist solely in the cloud, on our phones or laptops.
In 2015 and beyond, I expect that the messy handovers between different providers – between train and bus, for example – will be ironed out. These are often the most awkward parts of a journey.
At the moment, there’s a desire to make stations into ‘destinations’ as much as they are the start or end point of a journey. Stations want us to go for dinner at St. Pancras and do our shopping there, too. A few years ago there was a desire to make train stations more like airports with the likes of Prada, Hugo Boss and other high-end retailers; but that hasn’t quite come into fruition. In reality, the scope for this is limited - the space is quite constrained and stations are generally cold and open to the elements.
A lot of people would rather take the Eurostar to Paris rather than fly
Jason, Creative Commons (2007) ©
However, station operators are getting savvier about making sure their retail offering fits with our lives, and I think that train stations will continue to develop into retail hubs in 2015. Click-and-collect is the start of connecting stations to other services that are important in our lives; the next stage will be how to you fit things in with your lifestyle - dry cleaning, placing and collecting orders, as well an integration of business facilities.
So what challenges does rail travel face in 2015? Attempting to eradicate short-haul flights is a big one. A lot of people would rather take the Eurostar to Paris rather than fly. Part of this will depend on connectivity with airports: you wouldn’t fly from Glasgow to London Heathrow to take a long-haul flight, you’d take the high speed train instead. Rail travel will never replace long-haul flying or even medium distance flights but certainly within the UK, why would I fly to Glasgow?