Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Apps and the Future of Transport

By Euan Andrews

26 Oct 2016

The rate at which technology evolves continues to increase, bringing change and disruption across all business sectors. Few, however, are currently subject to as much change and disruption as the transport sector. Across land, air and sea, public and private, commercial and domestic, dramatic changes in transport are on the horizon due to advances in technology. From travel operators, to local authorities, governments and vehicle manufactures, every organisation with an interest in transport is leveraging mobile applications to optimise, economise and improve their systems.

Mobile applications are at their most powerful when they combine mobility, utility and data. Given that modern transport networks are critically dependent on these three things, mobile applications are particularly effective in addressing many of the challenges that operators face. In addition, they provide novel opportunities for revenue generation and improving the quality and reliability of transport services.

The majority of commuters travel mainly via their own private cars, and this remains the largest market in terms of both commercial opportunity and size of market. Both Google and Apple have made inroads into the automotive market with their Android Auto, and Apple Carplay products. Both allow standalone apps and integration with their different device ecosystems, allowing in-car functionality like voice recognition, navigation and media playback. Having standardised platforms opens up another channel for developers to deploy existing products and also create unique products specifically for the automotive market.

Whilst integration of app platforms into a car itself is relatively new, transport based apps available on smartphones are well established. The ability of software to be ubiquitous, location-aware, and mobile provides new opportunities to optimise and monetise travel networks, such as ‘pay-as-you-go’ road taxation and congestion charging, parking management, and payment of fines, all via mobile apps. As well as providing convenience for the consumer, this greatly improves the efficiency of revenue collection and eases congestion by optimising travel flow and incentivising desirable routes and driving behaviour.

As transport begins to move away from oil as its sole source of fuel (electric engines, biofuels etc.), there is a concomitant decline in fuel tax revenues. This means that alternative revenue sources and models of taxation will become increasingly necessary to secure sufficient revenue to maintain transport networks and infrastructure. As such, governments and local authorities will be increasingly looking towards mobile applications to deliver critical parts of their revenue generation strategy.

Consumer focused travel apps are also providing increased convenience, choice and money saving for consumers. Novel approaches to insurance on a ‘usage-basis’, where premiums are calculated in real time, based on driving behaviours are now being trialled and only possible as a result of mobile technology. Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Cargomatic provide choice, convenience and reduced cost for consumers, as well as enabling additional revenue streams or even full-time employment for anyone who has their own car or van. Mobile applications can further enable consumers to opt out of car ownership completely. Apps can make short term car, scooter and bike rental extremely easy and convenient, but also have the potential to make public transport more appealing and cost effective.

Up-to- the–minute travel information is available on mobile for most travel networks in the UK, meaning that timely use of public transport is easier than ever. Studies have shown that consumers are much happier to use public transport if they know when they are travelling and made aware before time of availability and any delays. Apparently, the ‘dead time’ during which commuters are waiting for buses, trains or trams is the main disincentive to use public transport. However, even this is being ameliorated by mobile applications: recent studies show that because smartphones, tablets and laptops allow commuters to be entertained or productive even when travelling, some consumers are opting for public transport* even when it takes longer and is more expensive than driving.*

The ability of mobile devices to use near field communication technology (NFC) to communicate with other devices means that the technology for smart ticketing and automatic fare collection is already well established. It makes the process of purchasing, producing and validating tickets cheaper, quicker and easier, reducing congestion at crowded stations and eliminating the environmental and distribution costs of paper tickets. It also reduces fare evasion, saving millions in lost revenue as well as lowering the spend on revenue protection and prosecution of fare dodgers. Finally, integration across travel networks becomes possible through a shared interface, meaning consumers can pay for all travel, regardless of franchise, network or vehicle, from the same app.

There are thousands of use cases for mobile applications within transport. In addition to some of the commercial applications mentioned above, there are applications for enterprise applications for safety, maintenance, data gathering, traffic management and optimisation, analytics and distribution of information. The global market for transport software and systems is already worth over $30 Billion. Not only is this set to increase to over $60 billion by 2024, but travel will become more accessible, safer and cost effective than ever, in large part due to mobile applications.

At xDesign we are experts in mobile applications for transport and have produced apps for Abellio Scotrail, Transport Scotland, Sestran, Neatebox and were recently awarded a place on the Civ Tech programme to develop new transport technology for the Scottish Government. Check out our Scotrail case study _[here]( or [get in touch]( to discuss how we can help build your transport App._

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