by Julius WiedemannSep 14, 2021
The way we move from place A to place B has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. That’s no news. We now use mobility apps the same way we buy bottled water. We don’t even think about it anymore. Taxi services have had to adapt and rethink not only in terms of costs, but also in terms of services. Adaptation is underway, not complete yet, but it all might change so quickly again in the next 10 years that we won’t even recognise transportation services anymore. Legislation will also have to change. For instance, official taxi drivers used to pay huge amounts of money to have the license issued by a regulator. Mobility apps have ignored that and implemented their services calculating the consequences probably if they were fast enough to create a critical mass. Now they are flexing their muscles to make sure that their services stay alive without those type of regulations, including working connections with the employer. The next step, which is underway depending on the context, is the elimination of drivers. In February 2016, TIME Magazine featured on its cover the idea of self-driving cars with only one question: “All you have to do is give up your right to drive.” A direct response to the doubt we regular citizens share about the chaos that can be installed when we start using these technologies on a regular basis. The technology is already there. We all stay sceptic. But it will come.
But mobility is not only in the applications that get drivers and connect to direct customers to offer a service. It is also connecting brick and mortar commerce, retail, that by now see transportation services as a form of re-organising distribution channels. Now it takes only a couple of weeks for a place that is completely isolated to launch services available in bigger cities. The little village Alter do Chão, near Santarém, in the north of Brazil, is a good example. The city has very low infrastructure, and yet most small markets, pizza places, and burger shops are now offering delivery service to the village using local taxis. Almost every shop has a WhatsApp number displayed on the front. The Facebook-acquired application has changed completely the idea of customer service and sales in Brazil.
Transportation is all about tracking people's positioning, understanding the track, the complexity of a traffic in the city, and trying to generate efficiency distributing vehicles through different routes. We are now getting scared with amount of data shared by all these huge tech companies. We have a reason to be scared while we have to understand that this is the way that they will make the services work better. At the Verizon website, a telecommunications operator, it says that the “GPS data from individual phones is now used by Google Maps to estimate movement and speed of traffic in real time. This data informs Google’s travel time estimates by reducing the average speeds in its calculations during periods of high traffic, or increasing the average speed when conditions are clear.” With that, Google can understand how to avoid traffic jams as well as accidents.
The form of transportation will always be improving, with little details being improved slowly, like for example electronic ignition or electric windows, or better combustion engines for better performance, but it’s been relatively stable for about a century, until drones came into play as a viable method for delivery. In India, in the Bengaluru city, Throttle Aerospace Systems has started tests to deliver medicine during the night using drones, to reach villages some 80 km away from the big city. In a recent interview, Nagendran Kandasamy, the company’s CEO said: “We have collected about 10,056 MB of actionable data from our 100 hours of BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flying to strengthen our framework. Our copters delivered 454+ packages and travelled around 2,105+ km in a few extremely harsh experiments.” It all looks like that in a couple of years this will be mainstream or applied when necessary, without any complications.
Beyond that there’s also the new flying motorcycle. The Robb Report has recently featured an article called “Forget Flying Cars. The World’s First Flying Motorcycle Is Coming.” Developed by Jetpack Aviation, which produces vertical propellers for people, the company announced a successful test flight of its most sophisticated prototype so far. The California-based company plans to produce two consumer versions for everyday users until 2023. The Jetsons-type of life is now closer than ever. What looked like a wild adventure just a couple years ago is about to become a new real possibility.
Very soon popular map applications will have to be 3D, and air traffic control will also have to change. From the current maps in 3D offered in big cities, the actual navigation is executed in 2D. That will have to change quickly so that it incorporates traffic in the air, and regular citizens can start using devices, and eventually flying with safety. Digital technologies will be crucial to that. Transportation is going to be taken to another level.
Read more from the series Digital Legacies where our columnist Julius Wiedemann investigates the many aspects of digital life.