Published on in TransportDigital Transformation

From electromagnetic levitating pods to driverless cars and even our very own record-breaking flying human, it’s been quite a year for innovation in transport and mobility.

It’s never an easy task, but I’ve done my best here to reflect on some of the standout insights from the past year.

We’re getting closer to “one passenger, one journey”

Collaboration has been the watch-word for some time in the transport sector. In the development of new infrastructure and in the design of services, we’re already used to bringing teams together to achieve more than the sum of their parts.

For me, 2017 has seen this spirit of collaboration moving forward again. We’ve seen the public and private sectors coming together much more effectively to do the right thing for the travelling public and their end-to-end journey.

Tentative steps toward data sharing have started to accelerate, and we’re starting to see real value as was highlighted in the UK in December with the National Infrastructure Commission’s ‘Sharing Data for the Public Good’.

There’s been a lot of discussion about borders and new digital ways to avoid constraining movement and trade, not least because of Brexit. Irrespective of your position or local interest, the investment in thinking about frictionless travel and trade is surely welcome.

Global collaboration is also running at an all-time high.

You can see evidence of that in the first direct rail link between UK and China which opened in January, but we also see countries like Qatar learning from others and adopting best practice in urban transport systems as they build infrastructure and services to prepare for the World Cup in 2022. All in the service of the very best passenger experience.

Collaboration reaches its zenith in space, where public and private and national borders are being blurred – SpaceX resupplied the International Space Station with a recycled rocket for the first time this year.

Wellbeing can’t be compromised

The official statistics show that the long-term trends for safety and wellbeing across our industry continue to improve, but events remind us that there is more to do.

The recent derailment in Washington State bears echoes of the tram accident in London last year.

The backdrop of improving safety makes these incidents ever more shocking, and I remain committed to ensuring our technology is well deployed to ensure both the travelling public and the teams that work to develop and maintain our transport infrastructure remain safe and return home to their families every day.

Other safety issues are being taken ever more seriously across Europe, including vehicle testing, driver qualification and even drone safety. In an increasingly digital world, we will rely on high-integrity solutions to keep us safe.

Mobility is for everyone, for the long-term

Transportation has always been sensitive to its environmental impact, but 2017 has seen a welcome shift towards other aspects of sustainability.

Skills gaps are starting to be healed by initiatives like the National College for High-Speed Rail, which opened its doors in the UK in October.

As an engineer by trade, I’ve made a small personal commitment to improving STEM in schools by supporting TeenTech – a UK-based charity that helps young teenagers see the wide range of career possibilities in Science, Engineering and Technology. I think it’s incumbent on us all to help.

In October, Fujitsu and Business In The Community convened a conference on “Building Trust In A Digital Transport Future” – seeking to inform a collective response to the key unintended consequences of digital transformation and its impact on both society and the environment.

In the latter part of the year, we’ve seen mounting pressure upon new market entrants to ensure that disruptive tech is implemented in an ethical and inclusive way.

It’s been a real pleasure to see momentum increase toward an inclusive digital future for transportation in 2017.

We now need to think hard about the way technology like autonomous cars will impact the transport sector. How, for instance, will freight offerings develop along with the Internet of Things and big data? Are we prepared for the increasing importance of transport as a means of mobilising previously marginalised groups and regions, such as those with impaired mobility or those in remote rural areas, in the future?

People will continue to come together

Our annual gathering in Munich is just one example of the way transport networks have made the world a smaller place – this year more than 10,000 people from over 80 countries joined us at the ICM.

There was plenty to discuss: the impact of data on mobility, what connected travel will look like in 2025 and beyond, how personalisation will improve passenger experiences and the role technology can play in making travel safer. We also heard how co-creation is at the heart of Heathrow’s development.

As ever, World Tour brought together the great and good of the transport sector – all looking to share insights into how tech is transforming the way we get from A to B.

The big theme from this year’s meeting was digital, and how it’s impacting everything from the nuts and bolts of our transport systems to inclusivity and the promotion of regional economic growth.

Waiting for the future to happen will only ensure you’re left in the past

This time of year is predictions season, but when things (if you’ll excuse the pun) move as quickly as they do in the transport sector it can be difficult to accurately forecast what’s next.

When it comes to transport we need to stop waiting for the future might bring and instead make sure we’re ready before it arrives.

That’s as condensed as I can make the year we’ve just had. I’ll never stop being astounded by how much changes over the course of just twelve months in our industry.

Who knows where the next twelve will take us!

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