To demonstrate how digital technologies and changing business models could address many of today’s problems, we’ve given our 2016 traveller a particularly nightmarish day. It is not, however, unrealistic. Everyone’s had journeys when nothing seems to go right, and often the problems we encounter have their roots in problems that digital technologies can help address – such as excessive congestion at transport pinch points, poor access to information and inflexible ticketing.
Having said that, our 2021 journey does not represent a prediction of the future, nor a recommendation for one. Instead, it’s a thought experiment: an attempt to explore how we might make use of digital technologies, and to identify the requirements, the obstacles, the goals – all the messy practicalities of landing technologies in the real world of legacy systems, vested interests and diverse opinions. Markets and technologies may instead head off in new and unexpected directions. But we already have the digital skills to improve journeys in the ways set out in our 2021 scenario. It’s worth considering how we could go about realising those benefits.
Many of the essential building blocks are in place. Much of the necessary data is already being collected, and we have strong payments, data exchange, automated decision-making and ticketing technologies. But changes would be required to transport regulation and management, travel business models and data handling. The challenges lie in how we organise ourselves to realise that potential; some of these points are discussed beneath our example journeys.