One basic aspect of digital change that most people fail to realize is that we’ve only seen the start of it, and that it will go on for years and essentially never stop. Furthermore it will be accelerating.
And because public transport - as I have pointed out before - will be hit by digitalization like all other industries, this is the reason why operators must start preparing now, in order to keep up with competition.
On the other hand, since all operators are basically in the same situation, just starting to think in these terms is not bad.
So, where should you start?
Most fundamental of all is to understand and to admit the power of digitalization. This will bring the necessary motivation to identify opportunities and challenges.
One first step is then to investigate current and upcoming digital offerings from all kinds of vendors. Driverless vehicles of different types is an obvious area - development of autonomous vehicles is now being pushed by established car producers and start-ups, one reason being that over 3,000 people are killed each day on roads in the world, mostly due to human error. Machines are simply expected to be better drivers.
But operators also need to look at digital technology in other areas - digital infrastructure for connecting vehicles and for collecting user and vehicle data, and software systems which are key for tying the digital pieces together and to expand and reinvent public transport through improved and new digital services. Also investigate artificial intelligence based systems, e.g. for automated information and communication with travelers.
Next step is to make an inventory of existing transportation modes in your system, and to consider in what way e.g. fixed and on-demand transportation could be integrated into more flexible offerings. Such integration might have been difficult earlier, but could now be possible and effective, based on digital technology. Keep in mind that even a basic integration is a good start, since digital technology keeps evolving and will make better and richer services possible over time.
Also discuss which transportation modes could be added to your system - car sharing, ride sharing and even bike sharing - either through acquisitions or through collaborations.
Not the least, involve people in your organization. Everyone needs to get an understanding of the fundamental shift digitalization will bring. Such an understanding is important to help the organization adapt to new conditions and ways of working. It can also encourage employees to contribute with new ideas, which is one of the most valuable assets in times of change.
However, since change is frightening to most people you need to be ready to handle fear for change too, proving that you have necessary insights and showing readiness to address the challenges digitalization brings.
Finally - don’t wait. Start preparing now, because the digital change to public transportation has already started.
- Mats Lewan
About the author
Mats Lewan is a tech and science journalist, speaker and author, focusing on the force of change in technology and how it will transform our lives and our society.
This subject is discussed in more detail in this video