Global megatrends like increasing populations and urbanization are contributing to complex mobility environments, and municipalities are being forced to adapt. As populations grow, more commuters are traveling via outdated transportation networks, and companies and cities are being strained by inefficient operating models. Recent advancements in digital technologies and growing acceptance of novel business models have paved the way for a mass overhaul of existing mobility landscapes, and improvements in our world's urban centers have already begun to drive this transformation.
As transportation was severely stunted at the onset of COVID-19, municipal agencies specifically felt the effects that limited mobility had on public resources. Decimated budgets prompted the need for cost-effective solutions to public transit woes, leading to the accelerated adoption of digital solutions to improve operational efficiency and customer service. Looking to tackle the problem of congestion and inefficient roadways, cities began to look for ways to upgrade road networks and traffic signals with improved detection and management systems. While smart cities remain in their infancy, mobility innovations are beginning to improve the way we transport people and goods in urban settings.
As we begin 2021, we take a look back at some of the most important developments that occurred in the Improving Urban Mobility storyline in 2020.
Intelligent Transportation Systems
- Inrix released a traffic signal data platform aimed at helping municipalities better understand traffic flow at individual intersections. While the product is a lower-cost solution than traditional sensor-based systems, the anonymous vehicle data platform will likely prove less accurate than camera-based options.
- Audi, in partnership with Traffic Technology Services (TTS), expanded its networked traffic light system to its second German market. The vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) feature allows traffic signals to communicate light status and timing information directly to cars and drivers via dashboard applications.
- Lidar caught momentum as a promising traffic sensor for cities. The technology features a few key characteristics that make it a viable traffic detection tool, including its energy efficiency, ability to communicate data to connected vehicles, and lack of facial recognition features, which lessens privacy concerns.
- Multimodal traffic detection systems continued to gain popularity. Deployments aimed at detecting pedestrian, bike, and micromobility traffic increased as multimodal mobility grew during COVID-19.
- FLIR began offering AI-integrated traffic detection and management products. TrafiSense AI, the company's thermal imaging system, and the TrafiCam AI, a traditional camera-based system, can be used together or independently.
Ford Mobility subsidiaries offered free consulting services and software to support public transit agencies during the pandemic. TransLoc, Ride Systems, and DoubleMap looked to aid the transition into uncharted operational environments by allowing agencies to experiment with more flexible routing and planning systems.
The city of Valencia, Spain, introduced mobile ticketing for public transit. The city partnered with Masabi, Mastercard, and BBVA to accelerate the adoption of the contactless feature in response to COVID-19.
Antiviral coatings saw increased use in public transit vehicles. Agencies like Prague Public Transit Company responded to COVID-19 by utilizing the CleanShield Indoor photocatalytic titanium dioxide-based coating, which kills 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mold.
Pantonium saw an increase in demand for its on-demand transit service as municipal transit agencies looked to manage operations during the pandemic.
- Via raised a $200 million Series E round. The funding brought the microtransit player's total financing to more than $500 million as it continues to expand its route optimization and on-demand public transit services.
- Zeleros Hyperloop raised €7 million. While the funding was not enough to fully develop the company's 3 km test track, the financing likely contributed a small portion to the track while mostly going toward refining Zeleros' pod design.
- Hyperloop received some regulatory clarity in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Transportation released a document that outlines the government department primarily responsible for regulatory oversight of new and emerging transportation technologies, including Hyperloop. The announcement also made the technology eligible for federal funding.
- Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) selected West Virginia for its Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC). The HCC will be home to the company's test track and intends to help progress Hyperloop on both the regulatory and commercial fronts.
- Hardt Hyperloop turned its focus to cargo-carrying systems. While cargo is a less promising addressable market compared to passenger-carrying systems, it presents a shorter-term opportunity to validate Hyperloop technologies under reduced construction, energy, and regulatory constraints.
In addition, the Lux Mobility Team curated the following "Analysts' Choice" for further reading on the Improving Urban Mobility storyline.
- Lux Members should check out this case study highlights how one company is addressing the growing concern among municipal leaders regarding how cities can effectively manage curbside assets to improve traffic flow and curbside monetization.
- While Hyperloop is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. This report details the limitations to commercializing the technology by analyzing the design of pods and the tracking and operations of the system.
- Rapid Flow Technologies is working to mitigate traffic congestion in partner cities with its adaptive traffic signal system.
- The city of Pittsburgh is regarded as a leader in deploying smart city mobility solutions, and this conversation with the city's director of mobility and infrastructure highlights current and future considerations that are front of mind for municipalities.
This blog is part of the Lux Mobility Team's Year in Review series examining the highlights and key developments of the mobility sector in 2020. For an overview of the other storylines in the Future of Mobility program, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs and subscribe to our newsletter.