Innovations That Matter

| Photo source Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

Top 7 Mobility and Transport Innovations From 2019

Best of 2019

From self-driving shuttle services to a parking space rental app, here are our favourite mobility and transport innovations from the past year.

With rising populations and congested cities, the future could be difficult to move around in. Thankfully, a new attitude on mobility is already disrupting how energy is used in transportation. This perspective calls for innovations that not only are green, electric-powered and save time in getting from A to B, but deeply change the way cities operate. 

Electric, autonomous vehicles and mobility-as-a-service are already being integrated with public transit systems and real-time data. Sensors, data, and smart algorithms are optimising routing, parking and the flow of traffic. And as a result, the world is reformulating it’s approach both to vehicle production and ownership.

From self-driving shuttle services to a parking space rental app, here are our favourite mobility and transport innovations from the past year. 

1. DEVICE TURNS CAR WINDSHIELD INTO DISPLAY FOR PHONES AND APPS

Photo source EyeLights

France-based EyeLights created a portable device that converts car windshields into a hologram that displays phone functions and apps, like navigators. The hologram is projected on an eight-inch display that does not impair the driver’s view of the road.

The device, which is compatible with any vehicle, responds to hand gestures and voice controls. It was successfully crowdfunded on indiegogo.com in February and is available via the company’s website. 

EyeDrive improves safety by allowing drivers to use their smartphones without taking their hands off the wheel. According to the company, EyeDrive saves the user 4.3 seconds of reaction time, because the display is at eye level.

2. A CONVERSION KIT TO ‘RECYCLE’ REGULAR BIKES INTO ELECTRIC BIKES

Photo source Swytch Website

London startup Swytch Technology built the Swytch kit, a hand-held kit that can make any bicycle electric. Now, cyclists can enjoy all the benefits of an electric bike without having to buy a new bicycle. This “recycling” not only reduces carbon emissions but also means people don’t have to part with their beloved bicycles. 

The kit includes a 250W power pack with an advanced lithium battery, allowing the bicycle to move up to 15 miles per hour. It also features an LCD display that provides information during rides, a motor wheel to replace the stock front wheel and a USB port to charge phones. The power pack also includes a 6km walk mode to assist users when walking with their bikes.

3. ROME PROVIDES PUBLIC TRANSPORT TOKENS IN EXCHANGE FOR PLASTIC BOTTLES

Photo source Daniele Brundu – Flickr

The plastic-for-credits scheme is a one year trial that exchanges plastic waste for credit towards metro and bus rides in Rome. The service will be available at all three major stations: Cipro on the A line, Piramide on the B line, and S. Giovanni on the C line.

Commuters will receive €0.05 for each plastic bottle donated. Thirty bottles are needed to cover a single-ticket, which is €1.50. The Government hopes that the initiative will also reduce Rome’s rubbish congestion in addition to preventing people from travelling without a ticket.

While the program is amongst the first in Europe, a similar scheme was spotted in Surabaya, Indonesia last year — with ten plastic cups or five plastic bottles equating to a free two-hour bus ticket.

4. FREE, SELF-DRIVING SHUTTLE SERVICE STARTS IN NEW YORK

Photo source Optimus Ride

Autonomous vehicle company Optimus Ride launched New York’s first self-driving vehicle program. The programme allows workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard industrial park to ride for free between the NYC Ferry stop at Dock72 and the Yards’ Cumberland Gate at Flushing Ave. The service is expected to carry around 16,000 passengers a month. 

The company, a startup out of MIT, uses geofencing to allow its autonomous vehicles to safely move through areas it has thoroughly mapped. The strictly defined areas where the vehicles drive help them learn what the company calls the “culture of driving” on different roads.

5. APP LETS USERS RENT OUT EMPTY PARKING SPACES

Photo source TuraQshare

Kazakhstan startup TuraQshare, with support from Nazarbayev University, developed an app that allows users to register and rent out their empty parking spaces. The concept was created in July 2018 for the Astana Innovations Challenge, a startup competition aimed at incentivising young developers to solve urban technological problems in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan.

TuraQshare’s founders, Nazarbayev University students Askhat Sharipov and Anuar Baitulakov, came up with the idea to help manage traffic congestion. The aim of the app is to make it simple to promote parking spots across the city. In addition, TuraQshare provides a platform for people to earn money by renting their empty parking spots while they are away from home. 

6. VIRTUAL REALITY TRAINING PROGRAMME HELPS IMPROVE ROAD SAFETY

Photo source Alex Knight on Unsplash

UK and Hungary-based FrancisKodak Design Lab created a virtual reality (VR) immersion safety course for drivers. The product, Another Set of Eyes (ANET360), combines traditional driver training methods with VR to teach better safety skills. It is the latest example of using total immersion technology to improve learning retention.

ANET360 puts students in real-life situations and hypothetical scenarios. Once hooked into the headset, the student is immersed in a 360-degree experience. The training course is based on situations every driver faces. It can also be tailored to client demands. The programme has improved driver reaction time by 20 per cent and reduced training costs by 50 per cent. The programme also uses machine learning, which allows it to record user reactions across an unlimited number of scenarios.

7. APP-BASED ACCESS TO ALL FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION

Photo source Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

A Finnish-based startup created an app that coordinates all forms of city transportation into a single platform, potentially providing a single solution for all transportation needs. The Whim app eliminates the need for different passes and tickets. Instead of juggling each service’s payment service, users opt for different subscriptions.

The goal is to simplify travel and to make commutes “eco trips not ego trips”, according to Whim founder Sampo Hietanen. More access to alternative forms of transportation means “less traffic, less pollution, less stressful journeys,” Hietanen said.