The Record - Issue 21: Summer 2021

102 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om V I EWPO I NT The intelligent transportation system J OHN S T ENL AK E : M I C ROSOF T As cities look to find greener solutions to transport, a coordinated mixed-mode mobility system driven by the careful use of data may provide the answer A s we hopefully iterate our way out of the Covid-19 crisis, it is interesting to reflect on how it has taught society a few lessons and accelerated certain trends, even those not directly related to public health. The lowering of emissions and improvement in air quality dur- ing lockdowns was noted in multiple parts of the world. When a return to limited travel was mooted, the fear of an uptick in private car usage because of higher transmission risks in public and shared transportation was often referred to as the ‘revenge of the car’ and multiple city authorities were debating legislative approaches – almost a panic response – to curb such an increase. I cite this here to illustrate key princi- ples; most urban authorities would like to move their transportation solutions towards greener and more shared methods – with the private car being unduly vilified – and the levers they have to influence such solutions are relatively limited. Another measure for this is the impact of intro- ducing mobility solutions such as ridehailing or micromobility solutions such as scooters into a city. For many travellers, this is hailed as an advance and a useful addition to available meth- ods for getting around. For cities, it is not always so welcome, as unfettered ‘parking’ of scooters can cause pavement congestion and even pedes- trian injuries, and the unplanned addition of mobility services to existing transportation systems has frequently increased congestion, caused kerbside access challenges, and reduced passenger volumes in existing transportation systems, sometimes to uneconomic levels. This is not unique to mobility services however – similar impacts can be seen when cities intro- duce unregulated bus services, with competition for key routes, stands, and passengers causing localised congestion and increased local pollu- tion (anyone who lived in Oxford, UK, in the mid-1980s knows this scenario well). Rather than delving further into politics and macroeconomics, I will simply observe that many societies are driven more by the open market than centrally planned economies. But the statements above apply that no small degree of control or coordination of transport offerings is needed in order to avoid unintended conse- quences of commercial plays, so how can these tensions be reconciled? Many believe that the answer lies in what I will refer to here as the intelligent transportation sys- tem (ITS). In an urban context, this would be a multi-party construct, leveraging the power of public-private partnerships in an extension to arrangements often in place in cities today, where a city offers contracts or issues licenses to private operators for a period of time subject to certain constraints and conditions. The idea is to achieve what may not be fulfilled through market forces “Urban authorities would like to move their transportation solutions towards greener methods”