PROJECTING THE FUTURE SERIES - CHALLENGE PAPER FOUR
The future and mobility of transport
This is the fourth in a series of six papers which are examining different aspects of our changing world and the implications for the project profession.
It focuses on the fast-changing field of mobility and transport – an area where new technologies promise to transform both how people travel and how goods are transported, with significant implications across the economy both in the UK and around the world.
How people travel and how goods are transported around the world are set to be revolutionised in the years ahead. The digital technologies that are driving the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) are set to have a profound impact on mobility and transport.
The significance of mobility is underlined by the UK government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy, which identifies it as one of the four ‘Grand Challenges’ facing the nation – alongside artificial intelligence (AI) and data, the ageing society, and clean growth (topics which are addressed in the first three Projecting the Future challenge papers). The Industrial Strategy aims that the UK becomes “a world leader in shaping the future of mobility”. Areas of focus include two critical challenges: preparing for self-driving autonomous vehicles, which the government wants to see on UK roads by 2021; and decarbonisation: as part of the response to climate change. The strategy aims to put the UK “at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles”: transport is, after all, now the biggest source of emissions in the UK.
In the near to medium term, there are several major transport infrastructure projects underway in the UK. HS2 is perhaps the most ‘visible’, but upgrades are set to be delivered across several other rail lines and in October 2019, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a £25bn investment in roads for 2020-25. In the longer term, other technological developments are likely to drive far-reaching change in the coming decades.
Of the more imminent technologies, connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) might have the biggest economic impact. Whether for individual consumers, fleet managers, or haulage companies, the arrival of CAVs – and the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) – promises significant advantages, including in running costs, maintenance and overall ownership costs.iii But those will be weighed against costs such as the disruption caused by their arrival, not least to the jobs of today.
Changes in technology are also set to be accompanied by changes in consumer behaviour and the transformation of today’s business models, with the rise of Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Many experts predict a shift to shared ownership models; some suggest that this will blur the lines between private and public services, with CAVs perhaps supplementing or even replacing city bus services. But could already crowded cities cope with more vehicles?
New forms of mobility will demand significant infrastructure work. CAVs will use existing infrastructure, in the form of the national road network, though they will need 5G mobile data connectivity for reliable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-network communication.
On the other hand, developments in rail, aviation and shipping will generate new infrastructure. Such projects will have major budgets, complex stakeholder networks and hotly-disputed political dimensions.
More radical innovations could see drones being used more widely: soon they could be delivering groceries to online shoppers and supplying life-saving vital medicines to remote areas – perhaps even serving as airborne people carriers.
Elsewhere, significant high-speed rail projects are under way. Next-generation developments like commercial space flights, Maglev rail, and hyperloop technology – described by Tesla’s Elon Musk as the ‘fifth mode’ of transport – remain longer-term prospects.
Whether in the development and roll out of new forms of transport, the construction of vital infrastructure, or the establishment of new business models, project professionals will be much in demand in delivering the future of mobility and transport.
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
DEVELOPING SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES
The government aims that connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will be operating independently on UK roads from 2021. This is set to be spear-headed by an autonomous bus service crossing the Forth in Scotland, and self-driving taxis in up to four London boroughs: trials by the UK tech firm Oxbotica began around the former Olympic Park in Stratford in October 2019, with a further trial involving taxi firm Addison Lee due to begin in June 2020. There are questions about whether the UK is keeping up with other nations: US-based industry leader Waymo announced in October 2018 that its self-driving vehicles had completed 10 million miles of testing, and almost 7 billion miles in simulation.
BENEFITS OF AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
The latest industry forecasts suggest that CAVs could be worth £62bn annually to the UK by 2030. They could offer cost reductions of 20-40% compared to traditional motoring, as the result of a switch from private car ownership to shared ownership schemes and ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) models. Advocates also point to the potential convenience of self-driving vehicles: summoned via an app, a car could drive itself to the chosen pick-up point before ferrying passengers to their destination while they relax, work, or sleep.
5G NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE
While CAVs will use existing road infrastructure, they will also require fast and stable data connections throughout the transport network, across cities, suburban areas and rural spaces alike. 5G mobile phone services started rolling out in 2019, but the annual report on major projects by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority gave an ‘Amber/Red’ rating to the government’s 5G testbeds and trials work, meaning that “successful delivery of the project is in doubt”.
THE CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGE
The need to reduce emissions from transport is a significant driver of change in mobility and transport. The latest data shows that transport accounts for 33% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and has overtaken energy supply as the main source of the UK’s emissions. Globally, transport accounts for 14% of global emissions.
To view the full list of challenges and opportunities, download the challenge paper at the bottom of the page.
A PROJECT PROFESSION VIEW
We look at some of the potential implications of the transformational changes in mobility and transport that could lie ahead. Agree or disagree, we look forward to hearing your ideas – and your examples of how the project profession is already delivering the future.
The project profession will be involved in delivering enormously exciting transformational projects in mobility and transport over the years ahead, as 4IR technologies converge with cleaner, greener power sources. The arrival of autonomous vehicles, of drones, the delivery of high-speed rail, airport expansion, and changes in shipping all offer huge challenges and opportunities. At the same time, there will be major projects to maintain and upgrade existing transport infrastructure – with all the challenges inherent in working on services that are used by high numbers of people every day.
New infrastructure, physical and digital, will be needed to enable new modes of transport. New systems will be created for managing transport services. New business models will be created, as companies transform their products and services to make the most of new technology.
Established, incumbent businesses and industries will be challenged as new models emerge: the leaders in AV technology are not the old car manufacturers but companies like Waymo, which began as a Google project.
Further challenges to project professionals will stem from the types of projects needed to deliver the future of mobility. To start with, mobility and transport projects are often high-budget infrastructure projects – many are ‘megaprojects’ (usually defined as being projects with budgets of over £1bn, or $1bn). Over-runs are often hugely costly, as with London’s Crossrail: its total budget is now £18.25bn, over £2bn more than initially planned, and its opening has been delayed from December 2018 to a planned opening – as of late 2019 – “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.
Projects to deliver the future of mobility and transport will need the highest levels of professionalism and expertise from the project profession. They will demand technical excellence in delivery, and a real emphasis on the people dimension, including engaging stakeholders with diverse and potentially challenging views: after all, transport projects are frequently contentious. Just think of the long-running and heated debates over HS2 and airport expansion in London and the South East.
There will be enormous challenges in delivering mobility and transport for the future. Regulatory, political, technological, environmental and commercial factors will all be in play, along with questions of changing consumer and citizen behaviour. Yet the potential for radical transformation is clear. Project professionals will be challenged like never before: they will be at the heart of shaping the future of mobility and transport.
KEY QUESTIONS FOR THE PROJECT PROFESSION
Throughout Projecting the Future, we want to explore the questions that matter about the future of the project profession.
We want to hear your views, ideas and case studies relating to these questions – and if we have missed a critical question that you think needs to be discussed, we want to hear that too.
VIEW KEY QUESTIONS AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION
- How will trends in mobility and transport affect project professionals over the next 5-10 years?
- Do the trends ahead in transport and mobility create any particular challenges for the skills and capabilities of project professionals? If so, what are these, and how could these capabilities best be developed?
- Many of the projects in the field of mobility and transport will not only be transport infrastructure projects, they will be digital projects. Do specialist project professionals in these sectors have the expertise and experience that is needed? If not, what are the implications?
- Research suggests that high-value megaprojects are often doomed to cost and time over-runs. Given the importance of infrastructure projects to shaping the future of transport and mobility, can megaprojects be delivered more reliably? How can problems be minimised, and success rates improved?
- Are there any other issues in this area, which will affect the project profession in the years ahead, which should be considered?