… including some you probably never thought of
2022 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for innovators in the transportation technology space. New technologies like electronic vehicles (EV), on-demand services, smart city integrations, and autonomous vehicles, are rapidly changing the personal, and public transportation landscape. And, if the past few years have proved anything, it's that our transportation systems remain critical to keeping people, and the economy, moving forward.
Today's travelers are demanding more when it comes to their health, safety (and security), and overall ridership experience. With these in mind, innovation is driving significant progress towards upgrading vehicles, enhancing accessibility, improving rider experience, reducing emissions, and even protecting transit employees', and riders' information. With a laser focus on innovation in 2022, here are our top 7:
1. Clean Moving Electric Vehicles (EV)
There's a great line from The Economist, on the effects of climate change; "Climate change… shapes cities, life expectancies and wine lists." In short, it makes us think about how global warming can have a devasting impact on everything we touch, see, and even taste. It also reminds us of the tremendous responsibility we have as short-term inhabitants of this planet, to make green and clean changes in our everyday lives.
With transit emissions still being the largest contributor to climate change as of 2020, North Americans are embracing a move to electric vehicles (EV). Since 2016, the number of EVs on our roads, has more than tripled – and this movement extends beyond personal vehicles. Transit riders have always been 'greener' than vehicle drivers, but now more than ever, there is a wide-spread desire for eco-friendly public transit options.
In a recent Transit Unplugged podcast, Sebastian Viatus, Vice President Product Management, at Vontas, proclaimed "It's been a sustained effort over the years to decarbonize transportation in general… some good success has been made with reducing emissions so far, and electric vehicles now have the potential to take that decarbonizing to the next level."
Across North America, bus manufacturers are leveraging the latest advancements in EV technology to bring to the market. And more and more transit agencies are growing their EV fleets, with many big cities seeing commitments for a complete conversion to EV within 10 to 20 years. Take the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) for example, who currently runs 60 electric buses across the city, with an outstanding order for an additional 300.
It's obvious that electric vehicles are here to stay. With the new American Infrastructure Bill, allocating significant funding towards sustainable transportation, 2022 is certain to experience major momentum in the advancement of electric transportation.
2. On-Demand Solutions
Now, more than two years since we first heard the words 'global pandemic,' amid rising health and safety concerns, and a desire to avoid crowded vehicles, many have transitioned to appointment-based, single-occupancy, on-demand transportation services.
Prior to COVID, on-demand services were already emerging. However, as many more appeared during the pandemic, on-demand's value in preserving and enhancing mobility options, has been embraced by communities of all sizes.
For public transportation providers, microtransit shuttles and buses not only satisfy riders' new demands for health and safety, but these on-demand services help to improve public transit efficiency. In a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group regarding on-demand microtransit, results show that “on-demand transit services work…helping cities reduce traffic by up to 15-30 percent, while providing a more efficient and comfortable way of travelling."
In 2022 and beyond, we can expect to see on-demand services become mainstream for public transit agencies, and their riders, while the technology behind the platforms supporting these services, will continue to progress.
3. Self-Driving Vehicles
Like something out of The Jetsons cartoon, autonomous (self-driving), vehicles (AV), capable of sensing their environment, and operating without human involvement, have seemed too futuristic to be attainable. That is, until now. Today, self-driving vehicles are very much a reality, and are crawling towards widespread consumer adoption.
In recent years, we've grown accustomed to many semi-autonomous driving systems on the road, such as lane assist, electronic stability control (ESC), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and others. And autonomous vehicles are the next logical step in this evolution.
Like EVs, autonomous vehicles are not just for personal use. Public transit systems have started testing out autonomous buses, shuttles, and ride-hailing services. In 2021, The Ford Motor Company partnered with the ride-hailing group, Lyft, to launch an autonomous vehicle pilot project spanning Miami, Florida and Austin, Texas. Starting this year, and over the next five, Ford will deploy 1000 autonomous vehicles, utilizing the Lyft network.
While AV deployment is a huge leap towards the evolution of vehicle safety technologies, it's not just about the technology. It's about the impact they're making on society at large. In 2022, we're going to see AVs become a larger part of our transit ecosystem. And findings from a recent report reveal that autonomous vehicles can help save society approximately $800 billion each year. The reduction in car crash-related costs, the reduced strain on the healthcare system, more efficient transportation, better fuel savings, and more, all contribute to the overall societal cost-savings.
4. Small but Mighty Micromobility Options
Micromobility involves transporting individuals over short distances, by way of lightweight, usually single-person, vehicles. The emergence of motorized micro mobile vehicles, such as motor-assisted bicycles (e-bikes), and electric scooters, are an important part of the solution to end congested roadways, and frustrating travel delays.
There are numerous socioeconomic and environmental advantages to micromobility, as well as filling transit gaps. Micromobility options are essential to building a more accessible transportation system, and this low cost, sustainable offering brings individuals affordable transportation choices, regardless of socioeconomic status, or geographic location.
While micromobility started to become 'a thing' long before the pandemic, a recent study found that the market is now growing two to three times faster than markets for car sharing, and e-mobility apps. And as people start to embrace smaller personal-use vehicles, as a way of filling gaps in their commute, micromobility will enhance riders' overall travel experience too, while conserving resources, and reducing emissions.
There's no question that micromobility shows great promise for the future of transit in 2022, and beyond. Technology plays an important role too. Micromobility manufacturers are working with tech providers to include smart safety features like speed monitoring and sidewalk detection, to make these vehicles better, and the roads safer for everyone.
5. Big Data Insights and Analytics
Data is forever changing the world. In 2022, it will continue to enhance public transportation, and almost every other customer-serving industry. 'Big Data', referring to large, continuous sets of data that are organized before analyzing, is used by transit organizations to inform decisions and solve transit problems. In the long-term, these solutions will help increase operational efficiency, reduce costs, and support better-informed decision making.
As an example, consider the big data gathered from Fixed Route CAD/AVL systems (Computer-Aided Dispatch / Automatic Vehicle Location). CAD/AVL uses computers and global positioning systems (GPS) to aid dispatchers in tracking transit vehicles, and it uses real-time insights to monitor driver performance, increase communication, and reduce response times to operational problems. With real-time data, call takers can quickly and accurately respond to ‘Where’s my bus?’ and other customer calls of this type. These data insights help dispatchers gain greater control over their buses, to quickly assign vehicles to routes based on any number of criteria. And this is just one example of the benefits of Big Data analytics!
The efficiency of Big Data insights doesn’t just stop at the operational level. Transit agencies can save on their bottom line by implementing contactless technology. This is vital to ensure new health and safety protocols, plus it eliminates the need for equipment, like costly cash fare collection boxes, that require a significant amount of upkeep.
As more industries become familiar with Big Data, public transportation agencies in 2022, and onward, will follow in their footsteps, realizing the measurable benefits of data-driven decision making. According to a policy brief by the APTA, "by leveraging Big Data, agencies can receive findings that are more accurate than past data collection methods (surveys), which can be used to inform decision making and increase awareness among the general public and business sponsors. The increasing affordability of data collection and analyzing tools have made this more accessible to agencies. It is now even common to see offices of innovation within transit agencies."
Transportation systems across North American (and around the world) are demonstrating that harnessing Big Data and the Internet of things (IoT), can spring countless tangible benefits for their sector. Today, transit organizations have tremendous opportunities to exploit data that they routinely collect, to positively impact their operations, and their riders.
6. Telematics – Look Who's Talking
Telematics are a vehicle's onboard communication services and applications that "talk" to one another. Telematics are sometimes referred to as the 'black box' that collects fleet vehicle data through GPS receivers, and other communication devices.
Telematics is growing at an accelerated rate, thanks to the internet, and the strength of telecommunication networks. For transit agencies, telematics is becoming essential for optimal fleet management, and benefits include the ability to create better bus routes, improve passenger safety, save fuel, and lower operating costs.
Priyanka Palacholla, Sr. Director of New Product Initiatives at Vontas, shares in a recent podcast discussion about hot tech trends, that today there are more than 10 billion IoT devices in use, with that number expected to climb by almost three times by 2030. And why is this so important? "In looking at the sensors that go behind these devices, they collect a lot of performance information including location and usage data. And as we harness all this data, we're able to make changes to improve quality of service, improve productivity of our workforce, and increase reliability in operations"… when we consume this data with all our big analytics and cloud compute, we can build smarter and better solutions now, and for the future."
7. Guarding Employee and Passenger Information
As we head off to work each day, either virtually or into an office, the last thing we want to think about is our personal information or even our identity, being stolen. But with recent cyberattacks at Toronto's TTC, and Vancouver's TransitLink, where attackers unlawfully accessed restricted network drives that contained the personal information of thousands of employees, the importance of cybersecurity is at an all-time high.
The transit industry is experiencing rapid growth thanks to new technology and innovation. However, these changes come with a higher number of security threats, including private data breaches, ransomware attacks, and hardware that can contain malware.
With the US Department of Homeland Security, declaring the transportation system sector a critical infrastructure, on par with organizations in the defense, energy and public health sectors, transit agencies need to make the security of their employees' and customers' information, a top priority.
Key findings from a study by Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), revealed that over 80% of public transit agencies claim that they are prepared in the event of a cybersecurity attack, although only 60% actually have a cybersecurity plan in place. Other important findings from the study show:
On a national level, we can expect regulators to put more effort into protecting public transit as critical infrastructure, this year. And at the organization level, transit providers need to be continually looking for cracks in their security preparedness, by reviewing their existing policies and practices, providing regular employee training programs, and deploying technical security measures, all with a commitment to continuous improvement.
In a recent podcast about hot technology trends for 2022, Daniel Saddy, Director of (IT) Architecture at Trapeze Group, emphasized the 'human factor' as it relates to cybersecurity. "The reality is there is no one single model that works for everyone. You think about the most effective physical security implementations, and they're usually multi-layered. You have your perimeter, and you have checkpoints along the way…. but when something occurs, do your staff have the knowledge to know what a threat is and what is not?"... it doesn’t just come down to one person, it's kind of a team effort. Because no matter how things are structured, there's going to be unknowns that you just need to address. So, by having everyone looking at it and collectively working together towards the same goal, it's much easier to overcome [cybersecurity] threats."
Don't Blink, 2022 is Moving Fast
If we've learned anything since the beginning of 2020, it's that necessity is the mother of all invention. In fact, the transportation challenges brought on by COVID-19 haven't slowed us down, rather they've propelled us to think, and act upon new ways to get riders where they need to go, safely and efficiently. 2022 is here, and it's moving fast. Innovative technologies, and the people who make them reality, are setting in motion a movement towards a technologically smarter, more efficient, and sustainable future for transit organizations, and their customers.