Intelligent mobility (IM) is rapidly looking like one of the next digital gold rushes — predicted to be worth £1.4 trillion by 2030, according to Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and Deloitte.

TSC defines IM as being about “moving people and goods around in an easier, more efficient and more environmentally friendly way.” In a nutshell, IM encompasses the transportation network: autonomous vehicles such as driverless cars; and the data-driven travel services that sit on top, from ticketing and parking to transportation and logistics.

IM in action

Use cases for IM are appearing everywhere, and the potential uses for data are enormous. For example, an MIT project is looking into how the urban transportation system could run more smoothly. Researchers are gathering multiple data sources, such as smart cards, GPS vehicle locations, mobile call detail records, and mobility tracking apps. The aim is to run algorithms on this data to estimate, predict and manage travel demand.

Predictive parking is another growth area. Ford has been exploring smart parking with its GoPark app trial in London. By analysing live traffic and parking data, an algorithm predicts likely parking spaces and directs drivers to them.

Alongside public and private transportation, data-driven IM is also starting to transform the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. By making data openly accessible and sharing it amongst travellers, digital innovators are improving customer service, the travel experience, and hotel and holiday bookings, among other things. For example, hotel chains such as Marriot are using mobile artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to automate customer services and bookings.

So, what’s the problem?

The IT advances that underpin IM are certainly coming together: wireless broadband, AI algorithms, the internet of things (IoT), open data and autonomous, interconnected systems. And yet, data-driven travel and transportation hasn’t fully arrived. So, what will it take for IM to come of age?

One of the main challenges lies in modernising the infrastructure — the roads, car parks and signage — for IM to successfully support autonomous, connected cars, vans and trucks at scale. This is why driverless cars are expected to be used as part of broader Smart City initiatives, such as Bristol Is Open.

Another challenge is how to effectively harness the unparalleled amounts of information that IM generates. The difficulty centres on how you store, cleanse, analyse and produce value from this data, issues that many businesses are grappling with. Technology plays an essential role, however,offering fast-maturing tools and technologies such as data lakes, cloud-based processing, data science and machine learning.

The data-centric future

Looking ahead, TSC predicts that the focus from 2018 to 2021 will be on optimisation across multiple transport networks, exploiting archived real-time data, and applying predictive analytics to it.

Between 2022 and 2024, TSC says this data will result in “new forms of on-demand mobility for people and things, requiring real-time data-sharing and interpretation, technological innovation and legislative/public attitude shifts.”

Finally, by 2025, the group believes that IM solutions — based on open and shared data — will result in benefits such as: faster journeys, £4 billion per annum in savings through lower congestion, £1 billion per annum in savings through lower emissions, and the creation of 3,000 new skilled jobs.