By Scott Silence

When we think about innovation in transportation systems that move hundreds of thousands of people every day, we must start with the individual traveler:

Scott Silence

“Putting the traveler at the center of the solution doesn’t just change the offering; it also may change the business model for the offering.” – Scott Silence, chief innovation officer for Public Sector

  • What do they want to do?
  • What information and options do they have?
  • How do they access that information or see those options?
  • How do they decide on an option and take action?

Most transportation solutions focus on what a traveler wants to do from the system point of view. They might want to find a parking space, or use a toll road, or determine the best commute on a Monday morning. A traditional parking solution might offer more parking spaces, for example, optimized through studies of existing parking usage patterns with, perhaps, dynamic pricing to incentivize optimal occupancy. But the focus remains on the parking system.

Instead, let’s consider what happens when we put the traveler at the center of the solution. A traveler wants to know where open parking spots are, or even better, where parking spots that are currently occupied will open up. He accesses that information immediately (and conveniently) on a system he already uses – perhaps in his connected vehicle. He then navigates to the open spot and parks. The parking system that supports this option, but now that system is organized around the traveler.

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This isn’t science fiction. Solutions that have elements of this are becoming available today. (Here’s an example.)

Again, the focus isn’t on the system, but the traveler. The Xerox Mobility Marketplace Platform is another example of the traveler at the center. It combines modes of transit that best accomplishes the traveler’s goal, provides the options, and enables the trip. This is “traveler-centric transportation.”  To understand this, I’ll use an analogy with patient-centric healthcare, which is defined by the National Institutes of Health as “health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients’ wants, needs and preferences,” rather than the patient responding to the systems requirements and preferences.

Back to transportation, traveler-centric transportation solutions are enabled by emerging technologies like ubiquitous computing and communications (such as smartphones and 4G or 5G networks), which can provide the information and big data analytics to determine the best transportation options in real time. The rise of the sharing economy also enables this model. Options are determined based on information shared by others in the system and flexibility and efficiency are optimized through shared resources, such as ride-sharing services.

Putting the traveler at the center of the solution doesn’t just change the offering; it also may change the business model for the offering. For a service provider such as Xerox, it becomes not Business-to-Government (B2G) but Business-to-Government-to-Consumer (B2G2C). Governments that provide services to consumers need to be clear about the value they provide or enable since both government and the end user must realize the value from the offering in order for it to be successful

Just as for healthcare, traveler-centric transportation will be an increasingly important part of the transportation industry going forward.

This article was excerpted from the Summer 2016 issue of “Innovator’s Brief for the Transportation Industry.”