Stuck in a rut?

Transport as we know it is changing. Does this mean we’ll be flying around in hydrogen-powered, self-driving vehicles within the next ten years? I don’t think so but that doesn’t mean that things are changing and I would argue that it needs to happen sooner rather than later but are we stuck in a rut when it comes to finding alternative ways to travel?

There’s always some form of weather problem in the news or climate change is being disputed. The world’s population is increasing and the need for people to travel will also increase. Road congestion in the UK costs the economy nearly £8 billion annually. It is also estimated that nearly half a million deaths per year across Europe can be attributed to air pollution. It’s fair to say that we do need to improve
the way we do things as it’s clearly having a negative impact not only on the environment but also on society.

Companies are already creating and trying to improve upon new technologies. Disrupters such as Tesla make purely electric vehicles. Major automotive manufacturers are devoting increasing resources to developing hybrid or purely electric vehicles. Companies such as Google are developing autonomous vehicles. How soon do you believe that these will be fully viable alternatives to the current combustion engine vehicles and transport networks?

Take a look at the graph showing the number of registered vehicles on UK roads. You can clearly see a fairly rapid and robust increase in the number of vehicles on the road. I think it would be fair to say that the amount of available tarmac is not increasing at the same rate.

So what are the alternatives and how are people attempting to adapt? There are some interesting options starting to enter the market and they show that people are trying to address these issues. By no means are all of these fully operational but my main point is to show some ideas which may change the car journey as we know it.

First and Last Mile Solutions Like most good ideas when you head about it, it makes perfect sense and you wonder why you didn’t come up with the idea. ‘First and Last Mile Solutions’ basically do what they say on the tin. Hubs are created where either a shuttle service or perhaps electric scooters operate from. There are even some schemes starting that offered subsidised travel from these types of hubs.

Although this sort of solution won’t directly impact the main transport networks between cities, they could greatly help to reduce congestion and pollution within urban areas.

Lift Sharing Rather than traveling in your car by yourself, why not offer a lift to someone going (roughly) in the same direction? There are companies such as ‘Bla Bla Car’ which are quite big in Europe who specialise in long distance car sharing. This type of solution not only benefits the driver by subsidising their car ownership and the passenger by offering them a reduced transport option. Unlike some other alternatives this approach also reduces traffic; for every person car sharing there’s one less vehicle on the road.

Autonomous Driving
This has come a long way since conceptually appearing in movies such as ‘Logan’s Run’. Quite a few cars already carry enough tech to be partially self-driving (take features such as auto-braking, adaptive cruise control and lane change warning for example) but people obviously want to make sure that the technology is fool-proof and the correct legislation is in place to guide manufacturers and protect the public.

This sort of innovation potentially offers benefits such as reducing cost, increasing safety and improving fuel economy. Some have also predicted that along with a reduction in collisions there will be an increase in traffic flow. In summary, the cars will basically facilitate better driving by removing the human component. There is further work to be done here, but it does have huge potential.

Changes to delivery models; it’s not just public transport that needs to
change ;

Remember the days when you actually had to drive to the supermarket to pick
up your shopping? Online delivery services (Amazon, Ocado, Just Eat) offer
delivery services covering everything from basic shopping to electronics and
fast food.

There are alternatives to your typical van deliveries. There’s a company operating in Milton Keynes offering a ‘robot’ delivery service. It’s pretty cool when you travel around town to see the little robots driving around with their orange flashing light on top. Amazon have also piloted (no pun intended) a drone delivery service.

These are pretty niche concepts at the moment but they do demonstrate that you do not have to be constrained to the methods that we use today.

One way of reducing traffic and pollution is to adopt old school methods of getting around such as walking or riding a bike. This is a slightly ‘tongue-in-cheek’ comment but on a serious note people often turn to a vehicular form of transport far too easily. There are many occasions that you need to use a vehicle but there are also many that you don’t. Go on, get out there and stretch your legs. You’ll be helping the environment and yourself at the same time.

I hope you’ve found this an interesting topic to read about. The main point that I was trying to get across that the way we make journeys today needs to change. This isn’t just to make things more convenient but actually out of a necessity to ensure that travel is still efficient and protects the environment.

Think outside of the box and try something different.

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