Technology and, by extension, the mechanics behind travel, are perpetually evolving, but the rate of new developments can be hard to keep up with. The growth in mobile computing, GPS and data — not to mention the myriad forms of automation – are all shaping the future of travel in ways we can’t imagine, but some of these evolutions are closer than you may think.
The booking process
Big data is already influencing the passenger experience in commercial travel. From airlines using it to gauge which additional features to offer you to subway systems tracking your journey to learn more about your travel patterns, big data already informs several key commercial transport decisions. In the future, data will be used to define every element of your travel experience. Already, some companies have coupled automatic vehicle location data with signal prioritisation systems to improve scheduling.
As the technology develops and data becomes a more pervasive aspect of route planning, the way we travel will shift too. Likewise, data gathered from booking processes online are already influencing the way travel companies market and supply their journeys.
Mobile ticketing will become the means of boarding transport, with mobiles saving on costs for travel companies (passengers pay for the equipment, not the company). Add in that passengers have confirmed they would be willing to pay more for mobile ticketing – as it centralises the entire ticket booking and collection process – and it’s a wonder every travel company hasn’t already embraced the power of the mobile ticket.
Travel tech covers more than just the vehicles used to get us around – it includes the way we board these vehicles. As technology develops, so does our understanding of the other factors influencing our journey. Chief among these factors is how the design and layout of a building affect the way in which we move around and interact inside it.
Optimising airports, in particular, is fast becoming of major interest to travel companies and aviation authorities. While bodies like the International Air Travel Association (IATA) dictate how big an airport must be, engineers, architects and designers have more technology at their disposal than ever to streamline the boarding process and improve the often frustrating waiting experience.
Analytics quantifying boarding times, as well as data detailing waiting times, the number of visitors and their behaviour whilst inside the building, are all factors that will have an increasing influence on the way the airports, train and bus stations of the future are designed.
Despite being the most over-hyped technology of the modern age, AI has all kinds of potential when it comes to travel tech. AI already plays a role in commercial transport but, of course, when people hear AI and transport, they’re most likely to picture the self-driving car. Whilst self-driving commercial transport is certainly in development, it’s too soon to say to what extent it will be incorporated into everyday journeys.
Automation is already being integrated across different transport modes, but they still largely still require some level of human input. Likewise, AI that provides companies with adaptable eco-driving support systems are being trialled across Europe, but it’s too early to say how they will impact on the passenger experience. What is known for certain is that AI will influence how passengers experience their journey.
Of course, no piece on the transport of the future would be complete without mentioning the Hyperloop. The brainchild of Elon Musk, the train-like concept has been under development by American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services SpaceX for several years now, although the project is still frustratingly short on expected dates. Despite this, the project has received significant coverage in the media and is being touted as the future of commercial transport. With speeds supposedly reaching 760mph, it would cut travel times dramatically and usher in a new era of transport. Whether the Hyperloop will ever become a viable means of transport is another matter.
Energy efficiency is this generation’s hot ticket, with travel companies investing substantial amounts of time and money in developing more environmentally friendly means of transport. While traditionally transport companies focused on developing and integrating technology into infrastructure, companies are coming round to the idea that a more technology-driven approach can be used to cut down on costs through increased efficiency and reducing wastage.
Through the use of intelligent systems, companies will continue to improve each stage of the process, from fare collection to scheduling, further decreasing energy consumption. However, the changes to commercial transport efficiency have, so far, been largely unremarkable. That was until Beijing-based company Transit Explore Bus unveiled the ‘bridge bus’ – a raised rolling bus that straddles two lanes of traffic and allows cars under 7 feet to pass beneath it.
While the timeline is still sketchy, Transit Explore Bus announced several successful tests late last year. The bus, which can transport up to 1,400 passengers, is cheaper and more economical than underground transit systems because it doesn’t require digging underground.
Whilst most airlines already have an internal LAN system that allows passengers to access a range of movies, music and TV shows, they’re by no means standardised and are far less common on other modes of transport. This is rapidly changing, however, with Sygnal in particular dedicated to bringing the latest content to passengers going by rail, road and sea. The key difference between the standard airline entertainment system and the next generation of onboard entertainment is the way in which it’s delivered.
While most in-flight entertainment systems rely on seatback screens to view the content, the new generation of passengers has brought their own screens with them. With almost everyone bringing their own mobile device onboard, commercial transport systems are adapting. The next generation of travellers will be able to access centralised content platforms once onboard from their laptop, smartphone or tablet without the need for an external internet connection or the limitations of trying to store large amounts of content on their device.