What does the future of transport look like and mean? Ted Talks are the ultimate soapbox for floating new ideas, the most exciting of which are often visions of the future. In the shifting landscape of the new age of transport there has, unsurprisingly, been plenty of presenters sharing their knowledge of and aspirations for the future of mobility.
Here we look at some of these Ted Talks and ask, what might these ideas mean for the taxi industry? Grab the popcorn and follow me ....
How do we build a society without fossil fuels? Climate advocate Monica Araya uses her native Costa Rica as an example of positive action on environmental protection and renewables. She outlines a bold vision for a world committed to clean energy in all sectors. Electric vehicles are a must-have for this vision. If you're a taxi fleet owner you may be left thinking that you could lead the way in implementing a real, positive change in your city.
Wanis Kabbaj uses the analogy of blood flowing through our veins to evoke a vision of smoother and more efficient traffic systems. He previews concepts like modular, detachable buses, flying taxis and networks of suspended magnetic pods that he suggests could help make the dream of a dynamic, driverless world a reality.
To be fair, most of these are pretty far off. What is relevant right now, however, and what I find most interesting, is the escalating problem of traffic congestion and the frustration this causes which he so vividly describes. Put simply, there are too many cars - more than the world needs. While forecasting autonomous solutions is exciting, a more immediate solution may simply be to decrease the demand for privately owned vehicles. And that’s where the opportunity for taxi fleets comes in.
Here’s a look at autonomous transport that you can already see in action. Statistically, the least reliable part of the car is ... the driver. Chris Urmson was head of Google's driverless car programme in 2015. He shares fascinating footage that shows how a driverless car sees the road and makes autonomous decisions about what to do next.
I'm a bit of a rule breaker, so I'm throwing a non-Ted Talks Talk into the mix. And yes, this technically making the title of this post incorrect. I want to include it for a very simple reason. While autonomous vehicles will undoubtedly play an important part in the future of mobility, there’s one thing they simply can't do - be human. The future of the taxi industry is about customer service, as much as it is technology. Check out this anecdote from Sjep Hyker to see what I mean.
What if drones were part of your fleet? Andreas Raptopoulos of Matternet ponders if the structure of the internet could provide a model for connecting the 1 billion people who lack all-season access to roads with necessary supplies. He introduces a new type of transportation system that uses electric autonomous flying machines to deliver medicine, food and other supplies. Taxis are often hired to deliver goods from a to b, so this Ted Talks left me wondering if taxi companies could answer such requests with drones instead of cars?
Cities are becoming smarter and smarter around the world, enabling people to change the way they move. Behind these developments are engineers and strategists working for city planning departments and local authorities. Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City, is one such individual. She shares some of the projects that have reshaped street life in the five NYC boroughs, including pedestrian zones in Times Square, high-performance busses and a 6,000-cycle-strong bike share. What’s happening in your city and how can you take a stake in it?
Finally, the most far-reaching vision of our list. And by ‘far’ I mean distance measured in light years. The future of mobility is not just about how we move, but where we’re moving to! Mars, apparently. I love this presentation. While some of the concepts we've looked at here are still a good way off, this one wasn't even on my radar. Life on Mars, claims Stephen Petranek, will be much as it is here, with all the needs of a normal functioning society. Space Hail here we come.