You might love your job, but how much do you enjoy commuting to it? For many people the journey to and from work is tiring, uncomfortable and stressful. And it’s not just the physical stress. Frustrations over delays and cancellations on public transport, not to mention gridlock on the roads, can also affect people’s mental health.
A number of exciting new innovations in travel promise to ease some of the pain of commuting, such as the Hyperloop, with its passenger pods that can travel at speeds over 750mph, and passenger drones, the electric-powered vehicles able to carry single passengers for several miles. And with advanced tests on self-driving cars already taking place on UK roads, driverless vehicles could also play a key role in transforming commuter routes into the UK’s major cities.
However there is work to be done before these futuristic modes of travel become mainstream commuting options of choice. However there are some smart technology solutions that are already improving the urban transport experience, reducing congestion, and speeding up journey times.
The TravelTime platform turns distance into time, locating places by the time taken to get there rather than distance, and that can make a huge difference on your journey to the office. The idea for the platform first came about some years when co-founder Charlie Davies hit traffic gridlock en route to an important meeting. He'd chosen the shortest route, but as he found himself stuck in traffic he realised that distance was less important than how long it would take him to get there.
The platform uses data gathered from multiple transport sources to map travel time areas for all common modes of transport, driving, public transport, cycling and walking, which can also be combined. Used within a location search, it can search, map, sort and deliver results based on time rather than distance. The applications for commuting are broad. For example, employers looking to relocate to new offices can use it to identify which locations would be best for their employees, compare commute times, and inform staff of the time, cost and route required in the future. TravelTime can also calculate the commute times and costs for each individual employee.
ZeeloCOMMUTE helps employees dispense with the need to own and run a car just to get to work by using intelligent coach services. This also helps employers by avoiding the delays and impact on employee productivity caused by traffic disruption or congested car parks.
The system uses Zeelo’s RINA (Route Integration Navigation Automation) algorithm, which pulls data from social media, traffic update services and public transport, to identify the best pick up points to take nearby employees to work at the times they want to. It can also intelligently monitor the service and adjust the schedule so that the most efficient number of employees are picked up and will arrive at the desired times.
As co-founder and CMO Barney Williams explains, while there are many ways for those working in major cities to commute using public transport, where their place of work is not city centre-based, most employees have to travel by car.
He says: “The key to making shared-commuting services successful is to work with companies directly. Employees are given monthly, weekly or one off passes depending on the option chosen by their employer, and can also choose what time they want to be picked up.
“By implementing just one commuter coach, we can take around 50 cars off the road and out of the office car park each day. The journeys are comparably cost-effective to driving, and employees can be more productive, whilst ensuring that they get home on time in the evenings.”
Next generation mobile connectivity could also play a part in improving the life of the commuter. Once they are rolled out 5G networks could speed up the flow of traffic by allowing traffic lights to receive real-time information about current traffic patterns from cameras, sensors and drones distributed throughout smart cities. Being more responsive to actual traffic movement will help to ensure that traffic keeps flowing and to avoid unnecessary stops at red lights. Early testing of smart traffic light systems by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh produced a 40 per cent decrease in traffic stops, a 26 per cent faster commute.
Innovators in transport technology are taking a leaf out of nature’s book and adopting swarm intelligence to find ways of improving how we travel. Swarm intelligence can be described as the co-ordination of multiple individual entities working together to meet a group objective. The same processes that enable colonies of ants, swarms of bees, and flocks of birds to travel so efficiently can be applied to elements of the transport infrastructure to reduce commute times, and it all comes down to data and connectivity.
The automotive industry, an early adopter of new technology, is set to harness the power of IoT and the connected car. Cars are now being built to produce huge amounts of data, which can be sent via the cloud to be analysed and used to support a type of traffic-swarm intelligence that will help to optimise routes, and enable transport systems to adapt their capacity in line with fluctuations in demand.
Technology innovations in transport are already making an impact on the way people travel to work, wherever that may be. Who knows, within a few years, with Hyperloop and other smart transport modes up and running and a network of automated driverless cars making more efficient use of the road, people might actually enjoy their commute.
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