As transport and tech companies continue to innovate, travel options are growing for citizens around the world. Multi-modal transport and on-demand services will make journey planning and taking trips simpler, more comfortable, cost-efficient and help to take away the strain of travel.

In the Innovator’s Guide to mobility, emerging technologies and disruptive startups are breaking new boundaries in the world of transportation. With big data, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and mobility-as-a-service part of this roadmap, there are plenty of opportunities to make our environment smarter and cleaner.

These innovations will go a long way to reshape how we think about transport. But whilst they are undoubtedly important to our future, one factor should never be forgotten: how innovation can help more vulnerable members of our society.

Social impact

Accessibility in cities, as well as rural areas, is a critical issue for our transport systems and travel planning apps that aggregate data and provide services. It’s a topic that needs to be front of mind for governments and businesses across Europe. This also includes understanding how emerging transport systems impact accessibility.

The European Commission found that 80 million people ‘consider themselves to have a disability in the EU’ – more than 10% of the total population and a figure expected to grow to 120 million by 2020. Our populations are ageing too, meaning even more people will require transport options that cater to their particular needs.

Accessibility issues don’t stop there. Take for instance, a parent with a pushchair, someone with heavy luggage and a bad back, or someone who has a hospital check-up but can’t drive a car. These are just some of the social drivers that make accessibility important. It’s likely to affect us all at some point in time.

Bridging the gap

Technology is a great aid to fostering better mobility options and social inclusion for everyone. Earlier this year, the UK Government set out its Inclusive Transport Strategy​​​​​​​, where it will invest up to £300 million to extend the Access for All programme, ‘making railway stations more accessible, including through step-free access’.

Initiatives such as this, combined with mobility-as-a-service solutions, help pave the way for greater accessibility across all types of transport and provide a broader range of options for people who find travel difficult. According to Piia Karjalainen, Senior Manager at the MaaS Alliance, accessibility is an important aspect included in their recommendation paper on user-centricity in MaaS. But it is just a start.

Companies such as Toyota are looking at how autonomous cars can help elderly and disabled people get around more easily, alongside smart technology for assistive parking. Personal electric vehicles such as the California-based WHILL, which is to launch in UK and Italy, was developed after a citizen commented that they gave up going out to the local convenience store because it was too difficult for them. It seems some businesses are listening, in some areas. Unfortunately not all is rosy. Iin the US for example, ride-share service Uber struggles to cater for the disabled and co-operate with local government.

Forging greater collaboration

As the industry continues to innovate, it must work in partnership and share data. When transport authorities, travel companies, vehicle firms and government departments allow access to their data, it can be aggregated in ways that make it meaningful to citizens and industry alike.

Consider someone who uses a wheelchair. Knowing which footpaths and transport are wheelchair-accessible, or which lifts at train stations are out of order, is vital information that makes or breaks their journey. At SkedGo, accessibility is a topic close to our hearts and we have already integrated wheelchair-accessibility data into our own products. This way we help other businesses create their own offerings, helping people with mobility issues.

As data becomes more accurate and comprehensive, transport providers, on-demand mobility services and multi-modal journey planners can better serve citizens. By linking up every aspect of a journey door-to-door, using a combination of private and public transport data, people can get to their destination quickly and comfortably, no matter their different needs.

A new level of real-time data

Access to live data, not just on arrival and departure times, makes all the difference. For example, knowing which train carriages are full can be very important for someone on the autistic spectrum. Being directed to emptier carriages can reduce anxiety and defuse stressful situations faster.

Having a disability, or requiring assistance for other reasons, shouldn’t make it impossible or harder to travel. As innovators, we must work together to be inclusive on many levels, especially ensuring multi-modal on-demand transport is accessible for all.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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