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Future transportation


Lila Tachtsi
20 Mar 2017

Data is valuable, it’s the new currency. In many sectors, including transport, it becomes invaluable when it is gathered, analysed and transformed into operational and business intelligence. And now there is a great potential for doing so in real-time, offering even bigger opportunities for the travel experience. It’s how we use data that will inform and influence the design of our future cities.

We have released a white paper that considers how we can use insights from big data to influence strategic decision-making and user behaviour.

As well as adding extra network capacity and delivering a better customer experience, big data presents an incredible opportunity to influence people’s behaviour, offering travellers with smarter and more sustainable transport choices.

For example, in a world of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), we can gather data that will inform us about the condition of the transport network, traveller and vehicle behaviour, usage peaks and troughs, the design and operation of towns and cities, and social trends. The maximum value of collaborative CAVs will only be possible with shared ownership and better planned urban networks.

Atkins is currently expanding its use of big data to include mobile phone data, GPS data and a wide range of maintained data assets and connected sensors. This helps us to plan and design future services, quickly address any issues on the network, inform customers of disruptions, travel updates and much more. This is just the tip of what is possible.  We have a growing portfolio of big data insight projects based on more generic and well-maintained data sources, and built on data analytics platforms that can automate common analysis, which enables substantial productivity and quality improvements. 

Using big data insight, we will be able to encourage and incentivise users of the transport system to move closer to their workplace and popular facilities, as well as to more sustainable transport and urban environments. Contemporary planning will help ensure we have the right travel alternatives in the right place and at the right time, making these long term choices attractive.

So what do we need to do now?

  • We need to increase the ‘velocity’ of traditional data analytics from what might be several weeks to a matter of minutes, with big data enabling new forms of algorithms and models to be trained and applied on accelerated computer systems.
  • We need to find a way to ensure data can be shared seamlessly across systems and sectors so we can maximise the benefits of big data for society as a whole.
  • We need to show the general public the benefits that sharing data can have so public opinion can shift and we can better improve people’s lives and journeys through having access to the bigger picture.

By capturing data and applying scenario planning, we can chart our route towards a more connected, automated and data-driven future, and a better passenger experience for us all.

To read the full study click here. To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub and join our LinkedIn group.

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UK & Europe, Group, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Rest of World,

Lee Woodcock
07 Mar 2017

Reflecting on the past few months, it’s prompted me to think about Smart Cities, a phrase that’s not new, has promised so much and in my view, delivered so little. But, with a surge of new technology, digital disruption, entry of new market players and budget challenges for the public sector – could this be the catalyst for change?

With this in mind, coupled with new themes and trends emerging globally across the industry, I wanted to take a moment and make five Intelligent Mobility predictions for 2017…

Data Exploitation and Visualisation: This year we will see the emergence of new platforms, at pace. Data is arguably the life blood of a modern transport systems and critically important to unlocking value from new transport schemes, mobility solutions and customer tailored services. It will be through inter-operability, we see a drive towards ‘Platform as a Service’ across the sector which is here to critically disrupt the way we currently model, plan and deliver transport services globally in cities and urban areas.

Journey Management: We will witness the breakdown of silos across the transport system, with the deployment of critical technology solutions that cut across organisational and operational barriers. The surge of new payment systems will start to deliver seamless and positive customer journey experiences through account based ticketing systems. This will mean no more management of multiple Apps or cards – one account for the individual or family, think Sky-Go package.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: A huge amount of R&D is currently underway globally, it’s hard to keep up with the activity, announcements, new projects and demonstrations – which of course is great news for the sector and ultimately the consumer, but we have some way to go before cars are completely driverless. However, I’m confident this year we will see the first full scale deployment of a connected vehicle with the surrounding infrastructure, that links directly to the management of the network and supports the maintenance of the road asset.

Mobility as a Service: It’s the ultimate consumer proposition, enabling the movement from transport to mobility. However, the business model is yet to be proven on scale. There are some fantastic schemes I’m watching emerge and develop at the moment and will continue to build throughout 2017, mainly in Europe and in the Middle East. But, it will be in the UK this year I believe we will see a full scale operation of a Mobility as a Service scheme, citywide.

Cyber Security and resilience: Globally, the sector has a lot of work to do across Intelligent Mobility. Areas of development to keep an eye on will be the emergence of Blockchain, along with automotive manufacturers taking further steps to protect their vehicles and the associated data.

Irrespective of whether these predictions come true, we are in for a fast paced and disruptive 2017, with the world of Intelligent Mobility set to be totally unpredictable!

What do you think? Do you agree? Or have you got a different prediction for Intelligent Mobility? It would be great to find out what you think is a trend for 2017.

Join our Intelligent Mobility LinkedIn group with over 4,000 members today:

To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub

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John McCarthy
04 Feb 2016

Google cars are after covering millions of miles, the UK Government has announced a second round of winners in their £20m competition, test sites are springing up around the world (M-City, ZAVI, Bristol, etc), platooning and connected trucks and cars are being tested on real roads in real conditions ( The world of fantasy is now real and it’s worth looking at some of the positives and negatives that this throws up. 

Google car has been involved in over twice the amount of accidents than normal cars, but in an alarming examination of the facts, it can be seen that the accidents are caused by car’s rear ending it as it looks to obey the rules of the road. Rules and the human interpretation of them, such as when to cross a white line, or the ‘aggression index’ as others call it, has not been mapped to the car’s behaviour. In fact, caution is the operating principle. Isn’t it surprising that by following the rules, being cautious and looking to make safety the prime focus, even more accidents are caused by humans, you and I, looking for the Google car to move in a more imaginative and potentially dangerous way…. 

Insurance is another aspect of this world, with announcements from Volvo that it would cover all accidents involving autonomous vehicles. That cannot be underestimated. A car company is now looking to be an insurance provider. The business models are changing and the ‘new world’ of data and information forces car manufacturers to adopt a different approach to client creation. Recent announcements highlight the fact that local authorities are examining the value in having a central white line. This has an impact on all vehicles but what might it mean for autonomous vehicles, both in terms of the technology used to guide their systems, but also the calculation of insurance? Decisions taken today have an impact on the rate, the scale and the investment needed around this new sector.   

Opening up the impact and the ecosystem around autonomous vehicles, the use of shared services in autonomous mode is becoming increasingly more prevalent in discussions. Take the recent investment ($500m) by GM in the car sharing provider Lyft. This shows that the landscape and the delivery channel to the customer is going to be completely different. The autonomous car, and its close cousin the connected vehicle, are part of that Mobility as a Service solution and transport jigsaw. Mention of the connected vehicle throws up an interesting and a very pressing question. What should road authorities do now in order to take advantage of the future? The answer is that cities and authorities must start now to understand the business case around infrastructure deployments to take advantage of the vast realms of data that will be travelling in and around the vehicles. 

And what about the very near future, what will it entail? My prediction for 2016 is twofold: firstly, I firmly believe that people will become increasingly interested in the ‘converging marketplace’, where connected and autonomous and Internet of Things look to create a digital ecosystem and service layer. The second, and this is vital for the network operators, is that cities and Government will create harmonised policies and long term strategies around connected and autonomous vehicles and the value chains that they enable. 

Join the Intelligent Mobility group now and meet a community of professionals ready to embrace the future and read our Connected and Autonomous Vehicles report here.

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UK & Europe,

John Bradburn
14 Aug 2015

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) last week announced that it had terminated its contract with Atos to design, build and operate an Oyster-style smartcard across its transport network, with TfGM questioning whether the technology behind smart cards is now obsolete (source: The recent launch of Apple Pay in the UK, allowing London Underground commuters to swap out their Oyster card for their iPhone 6, suggests that TfGM may be right, with technology having progressed faster than many have realised. Given these developments, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on how such technologies could impact on how we interact with the transport networks around us.

The technology behind Apple Pay – mobile embedded near field communication (NFC) chips, similar technology used in contactless credit cards – is not new. The Japanese have had NFC enabled mobiles for over a decade, using their phones to pay for a variety of goods and services – from convenience stores to vending machines. The technology is now finely ingrained within the country’s transport network, covering buses, taxis, airline tickets, underground systems and of course, the Shinkansen high speed rail network. Apple and others like Google and Samsung are merely playing a rather delayed game of catch up, driven by the high adoption rate of smart phone technology, rising consumer expectations and improved connectivity.

The use of credit cards and NFC enabled devices marks a wider trend towards account based ticketing amongst transport service providers. Traditionally, transport system payments have been card based tickets (be it in the form of paper tickets or tokens), with a passenger buying a ticket or card, which gives them access to the transport network. Where access cards are used, such as the Oyster card, all information is held on the card itself. This approach, developed at a time when communications infrastructure were far slower than today, is an expensive one for transport operators – requiring sales infrastructure (ticket offices and machines), as well as the costs of producing and distributing the tickets themselves. Account based ticketing bypasses the need for a passenger to purchase tickets, theoretically allowing a passenger to gain access to the transport system through any form of contactless device linked to their payment account, such as an account card (Oyster), phone, watch or personal ID card.

The benefits for passengers to such an approach would be vast: mobile phones would become one-stop-portals for journey planning, ticketing and payment. Gone would be the days of worrying about having the correct change, or which ticket would be best for your journey – with the back office system calculating the cheapest price for your journey after its completion. Opportunities for further development are abound – from personalised and specific journey updates to truly flexible multi-modal journeys within one ticket – a vision set out in Atkins’ white paper on Journeys of the Future.

For operators, the benefits of account based ticketing are also persuasive. Lower upfront and ongoing costs for the technology will provide direct financial savings (operators will not have to issue, maintain and replace tickets or cards themselves), whilst mobile commerce and targeted advertising could provide a lucrative revenue stream. Account based ticketing also provides an opportunity for operational efficiency improvements, for example by improving the accuracy and speed of ticket checking, and providing authorities and operators with highly detailed passenger origin-destination data. Such are the benefits provided through this approach that TfL has announced its intentions to replace the technology in its Oyster Cards to allow for account based ticketing (source: Railway Gazette).

The key to this is the interoperability of account based ticketing systems and the expansion of such services. The ITSO standard was developed to ensure interoperability of smart card ticketing between transport operators in the UK, but has faced criticism over its slow progress (source: ITSO PDF). In securing the interoperability of account based ticketing systems, transport authorities and operators should consider the technical standards required, the customer experience of using the service and the opportunities the system creates for wider journey management.

Account based ticketing is one step towards improving the door-to-door journey experience for transport users, providing a customer centric approach to transport delivery and journey management. This will allow authorities and operators to better manage their transport assets, improve efficiencies and provide customers with personalised, accurate and specific details about their journey. As Apple transformed the music industry, journey management and the overall Intelligent Mobility market space offers similar opportunities for people and their mobility options, with account based ticketing being a step towards this which authorities and operators should be looking to harness.

> To continue the discussion on Intelligent Mobility, please join our dedicated LinkedIn Group

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UK & Europe,

Sam Stephens
05 Jun 2015

Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Brin, Page. The Silicon Valley hall of fame, the first three are now household names, even on the other side of the world in Britain. But one name who still gets mixed reaction from people I talk to is Elon Musk. Perhaps all that is needed is time, and perhaps he will go down as one of the most influential engineers of the 21st Century. His aspirations of us being a multi-planet species and ending the use of fossil fuels led him to set up companies he believes in. He founded SpaceX, the private organisation ferrying cargo to the International Space Station, Tesla the pioneering electric car company and SolarCity, one of the fastest growing domestic and distributed solar firms in the US. He did this using seed capital from the sale of PayPal to eBay. It’s hard not to be impressed by his vision, determination and ability to come up with (sometimes obvious) solutions to engineering problems in the face of adversity. The world needs a few more big thinkers like this, ones who will create the solutions that, in 50 years’ time, make our problems now seem really easy.

In case you missed it, in 2013 he had an idea and asked a few of his engineers at SpaceX to work up a feasibility proposal for a new transport system called the Hyperloop, essentially a solar powered self-propelled bullet in a big pipe between San Francisco and Los Angeles. For anyone familiar with the west coast of America, you’ll know the geographic circumstances; two major conurbations almost 400 miles apart with a high demand for communication between the two and in between is the tortuous Pacific Coast Highway, or the broad open agricultural heartland of the Central Valley. With poor rail links, a road (‘the 5’) that is well travelled and takes just as long its name and regular flights which are more of a hop and a skip, it is a route yearning for another option. The Hyperloop’s big headline was that it would be faster (less than 1 hour journey time), quicker to develop and cheaper to fund than the recently proposed high speed rail link. While the speed remains to be seen – NASA contributors to the crowdsourcing concept development on JumpStartFund have done some pretty impressive analysis that challenges the original pipe size and headline speeds – the cost and programme definitely seem rather optimistic. Despite low land costs, developing a new form of transport and installing it adjacent to major highways and over active fault lines would make me a little cautious.

However, the concept is bold, daring and a completely different way of looking at a problem that is replicated across the globe. It has also grabbed attention and inspired people to dream. The key however is that they have also identified a gap in the market, less than 100 miles travel distance a car will almost certainly win, and over 500 miles a plane will be quicker and more convenient. It is in the middle ground that an efficient rail system should operate, but does it? Generally, I think Elon has identified a few things that are inhibiting rail, firstly that trains are not fast enough, they carry too many people to be flexible and as such aren’t frequent enough. Solve these three things and suddenly a rail type system is more efficient than waiting at an airport or sitting on the freeway. In this respect, the Hyperloop is a great new way of looking at the way we connect our cities.

Channel Tunnel St Pancras International station
The fit out of St Pancras International was the final stage of the overall high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link project which started in 1999 with a total construction cost of £5.2 billion. The tunnel and its ability to quickly link the major cities of London and Paris may be one of the key obstacles for a UK Hyperloop system.

So this leads me on to thinking, would it work in the UK? Unfortunately there are a number of factors against us here in Britain. Firstly we don’t have two mega cities that are so far apart with almost nothing else in between (sorry Fresno and Bakersfield). London does dominate the UK economy (rightly or wrongly) with the next major city being Paris. This route would be an obvious choice, however we do have a couple of pretty good feats of engineering and politics that have helped in the last two decades, notably the Channel Tunnel and HighSpeed1. Secondly, our topography isn’t quite as predictably flat as the Central Valley and thirdly we’re not a big country and as such land isn’t cheap. Finally, we have some pretty good countryside with plenty of natural variation that generally people don’t like building on. For these reasons, while I’d love to see Hyperloop in the UK, I don’t think it will be any time soon before we start contemplating it.

But hang on, does that mean our rail system is adequate for the 21st century? The appetite for HighSpeed2 between London and northern cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds clearly has identified a demand and desire to modernise. Atkins is also supporting the electrification of the Great Western Route from London which with Crossrail will be great for routes west of the capital. We’re also part of an alliance with Heriot-Watt University to support research into future rail technology.

But is this enough? The developments in automotive transport, that I wrote about in a recent Angles opinion piece, a world where we hail an Autonomous Electric Vehicle on our smartphone, really puts pressure on us to think more carefully about how our collective transportation systems interface with personal transport systems. Are there any of Elon’s ideas that we could steal and use to adapt our existing infrastructure? Can we re-engineer our rail vehicles to be more compact, hold fewer people and run closer to the track to travel faster and be more efficient? Can we re-engineer our stations to facilitate more non-stop services and the different rail vehicles? And with these improvements, can we provide more flexible and frequent services to provide a truly integrated system? These are the big questions on my mind at the moment, the perspective of an engineer looking from the outside in to our rail network.

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UK & Europe,

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