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Post-COVID-19: Which Transport Tech Trends Are Likely to Accelerate?

Post-COVID-19: Which Transport Tech Trends Are Likely to Accelerate?

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most significant historical changes the world has seen within the last century. A lot has happened ever since the infection was declared a health emergency. There is already a shift in various services; people working from home, podcasting becoming one of the most reliable marketing techniques, and a significant change in how we interact with colleagues. If you ever wanted to start a podcast, now is a great time to do so

One of the biggest hit industries as a result of the pandemic is the transport sector. This is partly due to government regulations restricting crowding, more so in mass transport systems. Another major cause for reducing passenger transport demand is the closure of borders by various countries to international commercial flights.

An estimated 25 million aviation jobs will be lost during the pandemic, and this impact is likely to reduce the industry€™s growth by seven years.

Essential services in relation to healthcare and transport will continue to be on high demand, although delivery models may change. The restrictions imposed by the governments to curb the widespread impacts of the disease have forced the onset of new transport systems, which may be here to stay, even post-COVID-19.

The pandemic is the ultimate catalyst for digital transformation, which will accelerate major trends that were already underway before it struck. Not only will they have an impact on the economy but also our daily lives, which may not go back to how they were before. Most of the upcoming innovations will strive to automate processes and reduce human-to-human contact. All these will be highly valuable amid social distancing practices.

Even though the borders were to open up sooner, the travel experience won€™t be the same. The new health protocols will be in place. As governments try to revive the industry, travelers will have to adapt to the new concepts, which will be highly dependent on technological advancements.

Here are five ways digital technologies will shape the future of the travel industry.

1.   Public Autonomous Vehicles

One of the most discussed topics of mobility post-Coronavirus is the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The prediction is that they will be put into public transport service and no longer operated as trials and in pilot programs. These vehicles will keep up with demand while reducing the risk of exposure to people.

Many transit operators have already lost their lives to Coronavirus. This has prompted transport companies to deploy safety measures to guard vehicle operators such as installing panels next to the driver€™s seat, rear-door boarding, and even doing away with onboard fare payments. If AVs were to be pressed into the industry sooner, those drivers would not have been exposed to the virus.

2.   Touchless travel

The most visible and likely immediate change in the transport sector will be a shift to touchless travel. With strict protocols in place, there will be minimal exchanges of documents at airports, bus stations, train terminals, and even hotels. This opens doors to automation across the entire sector, becoming the new norm.

Biometric systems used for identity verification will be phased out across the board, and their use will become widespread. Contactless fingerprint scanners, iris, and face recognition software will come into play. More touchless options already being tested, such as touchless document scanning, gesture control, and voice commands, will also get rolled out soon.

As more people try to embrace living with Coronavirus among us, our daily lives ultimately change. Even the way we consume information is much different. For instance, one of the ways brands marketed themselves pre-Corona was through a flash mob at bus and train terminals. But this is no longer the case. You may want to choose your hosting platform and start a podcast if you€™re trying to market yourself since it is one of the fastest-rising convenient means of reaching your target audience, without human contact.

3.   AI-augmented mobility

The enhancements that have been made to Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies have the potential to improve today€™s mobility ecosystem. This transport ecosystem will harness the power of analytics, data collection, dynamic policymaking, improving regulatory compliance, among other benefits.

Artificial Intelligence is the core ingredient in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), made for road safety improvements, smart signaling, transit scheduling while offering real-time information to the operators and commuters.

Some of the ways AI-augmented mobility will take shape post-Corona include:

Reducing travel time

Computer vision and radar systems make it easy to see vehicles approaching from all directions. An AI-controlled traffic light system was experimented in Pittsburgh, allowing it to adapt to the pre-existing conditions. The predictive model powered by the traffic data modifies traffic signaling in real-time. The results were encouraging as the braking of vehicles was reduced by 30% and the reduction of travel time by 25%.


Assisting in Air Traffic Control (ATC)

AI has proven to be of great assistance to air traffic controllers. The London Heathrow Airport€™s ATC is often made to deal with lots of fog and low ground visibility. Therefore, the airport installed several ultra HD cameras, which would directly send visual data to Aimee, the AI system.

The air traffic controllers get notified by Aimee when a plane has exited the runway and directs them to alert the next aircraft when it is ready for landing. The system is expected to improve the landing capacity by up to 20% or even more, if fully operational.

This unmanned air traffic management system is most likely to be used in many other airports to ease the workflow. Moreover, the number of personnel needed in the ATC might be fewer, hence reducing crowding, which is one of the accelerators for the spread of the Coronavirus.

Other ways AI-augmented mobility will come into force due to the pandemic are active traffic management and advanced air mobility. 

4.   Ticketless public transit

The fare sector has also been widely affected by COVID-19. Although no one really knows when things will get back to normalcy, we can already see people using and looking for safe ways to pay for their transit. The use of cash or paper tickets is slowly fading away, and it appears the trend will continue post-Corona.

As the economy gets gradually reopened, cities around the world have accelerated the use of ticketless public transit systems. Many apps have been developed to enable commuters to pay for their fares without waiting in line to get tickets or onboard payments.

Transit riders in the United Kingdom use Ticketless mobile-ticketing platforms to minimize human interaction while moving around using public transport. The Las Vegas Monorail became the first transit system that allowed commuters to Google Pay as a way of buying tickets. The TAP smart card in Los Angeles will soon integrate mobility payment options, evidence enough that things might not go back to how they were before.

5.   Digital health passports

The spread of the Coronavirus pandemic has forced health concerns to be embedded in every aspect of travel. Taking into consideration certain health protocols going forward, will be the new norm not only for air travel but also on road, rail, and sea. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), precautions such as visible sanitizing, wearing masks, and the screening of passengers increases their feelings of safety.

No set standards determine the level of risks the reopening of borders poses to citizens. However, since no vaccine has been developed to date, the shift moves to assess potential health risks individual passengers pose.

There are efforts to develop health protocols using digital technology at key entry points at all borders. Airlines such as Emirates are now conducting on-site COVID-19 testing for all passengers before boarding their flights.

Although still in the initial stages, other travel operators and governments have rolled out industry guidelines for health screening. Thermal cameras are now widespread as symptom & contact-tracing apps get rolled out in various countries.

These new health and tracking protocols will offer travelers a relaxed and confident experience. However, the measures have also brought data and privacy issues to the limelight. Regardless, all the solutions should be transparent and able to secure the travelers at all times.

6.   Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is multimodal

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) had been picking up pace even before the onset of the pandemic. Traffic management systems and transportation Systems Management Operations (TSMO) are predicted to play a vital role in transportation as they get integrated with MaaS in the coming year.

However, even though the Coronavirus pandemic might not impact mobility choices, the data received from traffic operations and management are foreseen to remain more or less the same. This is because the potential impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on this sector is minimal,

7.   Focusing on time-travel goals


Owing to social distancing, we will see more time-travel goals trending in major urban settlements. In this case, technology is expected to play a vital role in boosting the mobility services. The impact of COVID-19 will be minimal on long-term time-travel goals as put by the Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport & Ministry of Communications and Information in Singapore, Dr. Janil Puthucheary.

According to him, although the country must address the immediate impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, they should also plan to achieve the goals articulated in the Singapore€™s Land Transport Master Plan for 2040. Moreover, transportation planning may experience a two-fold change. The first form considers unforeseen situations such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks while the other makes the transportation planning process more seamless than it is at the moment.

8.   Roadside management

The proliferation of kerb management initiatives and systems has already been affected by the pandemic owing to rapid changes in parking reductions and kerb uses. Many urban centres are already changing their infrastructure to provide short-term parking facilities for services such as food takeaways while eliminating parking spaces that might attract large groups of people. Technology-enabled kerb management solutions have been essential in facilitating these actions during this pandemic.

Looking Ahead

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about unprecedented change to the travel industry. However, the pandemic has been an eye-opener, providing governments and key industry players with a unique opportunity to redefine travel. There is now a need for simpler, convenient, and safe solutions to the health challenges presented by previous modes of transportation.

Ultimately, the onset of COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of various trends that were still in pilot testing. The two major sectors that have received a great deal of attention are seamless travel and decentralized identity.

Seamless travel incorporates improvements in public autonomous vehicles, AI-augmented mobility, and touchless travel. Decentralized identity means that your face and body are your passport. Combined, these trends will ensure that traveling during and after the Coronavirus pandemic is safe and efficient.

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