Any smart investor knows that technology can’t be ignored – no matter what industry you’re in. Technological solutions are disrupting every sector, even as something as mundane as our morning commute. As noted in a recent Medium article, urban mobility is definitely a market that can’t be ignored. Not only was it the main topic at CES, the world’s largest technology trade show, companies like Samsung, Intel, and Cisco are also investing in solutions for urban mobility problems.
In a recent McKinsey report on urban mobility, experts noted that when cities neglect their transit issues “businesses, residents, and cities all suffer, and the economic costs are high—as much as 2 to 4 percent of city GDP, in the form of lost time, wasted fuel, and higher costs of doing business.” Traffic and transit problems are costing all of us money.
And so it’s no surprise that new technology is helping with urban mobility. In every transportation sector, technology is helping to solve crowded cities’ biggest problem. Technological advances as big as city-wide traffic sensors down to the latest smartphone app are reshaping the way the public commutes, travels, and moves about cities all over the world. This trend isn’t just convenient; it’s necessary as noted in the previous McKinsey report: “Individuals and businesses are going to have to use roads and other assets better and be ready to adopt new technologies.” The time is now to use technology to help with urban mobility.
Let’s take a look at how technology is already reshaping how we travel in cities:
While Uber and Lyft have disrupted the ride sharing and taxi industry, they’re not the only technological solutions helping to reduce congestion on crowded roads. ZipCar and Car2Go are popular car sharing solutions that have evolved with mobility demands, moving from a fixed drop off and return location, to a more flexible free-floating fleet of vehicles. But while there are these solutions, the growing global middle class is predicted to contribute to the doubling of car owners by 2030(Energy Journal, 2007). And since many of these new car owners will be in already crowded cities, other modes of transport must be considered.
One of those other modes is public transportation. Technology has changed the way commuters use subways, metros, and other forms of public transportation, including e-ticketing options which alleviate lines at the boarding point, as well as larger scale predictive maps that allow commuters to track their bus routes, allowing for seamless mobility as they step off the bus. But even though cities have made great strides with public transport solutions, they still have a long way to go to ensure that travelers have easy transitions between car, subway, train, and other modes of transport. When asked why they don’t take public transport more often, most city dwellers say that inconvenient routes are a huge deterrent.
Just as the growing middle class around the globe is buying more cars, there is an opportunity for more travelers to use helicopter transport as a means of travel. Once reserved for the luxury jet-setter, helicopter travel is now easily accessible and cost effective for more commuters because of technology. The BOOKmyHELO app allows users to book empty legs on helicopter trips, enabling them to book a transfer that avoids traffic and congestion in cities around the world. Business travelers are already seeing its benefit, but as more and more people begin to use this technology, investors, city planners, and government officials will see a true disruption in urban mobility.