Towards smarter transport

May 19, 2020

Three years into its 10-year funding period, iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre shares some of its early successes and reflects on the value of its emerging collaborations and need for national coordination.

Transport affects every one of us every day, even if we stay at home. Better (more convenient, faster/more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable…) transport systems improve lives, communities and industries, but there are many challenges to overcome to make it happen.

On one hand we have disruption and constant evolution in passenger transport. With the stream of new entrants into this space comes a raft of questions for traditional transport service providers, particularly state and local governments. 

On the other hand we have the fragmented, low-margin world of freight, which desperately needs to collaborate to improve, but is subject to significant commercial sensitivities that impede willingness to go down that path. 

Ten years is a necessary amount of time to conduct significant R&D, but also a challenging timeframe in a fast-changing transport environment.

We are pleased to be delivering some things years before we anticipated — in particular, the momentum that has built around Mobility as a Service (MaaS) — but we can also reference the growth in number and capability of journey-planning apps for mobile phones. Our research into MaaS has already expanded from an initial investigation into consumer attitudes, to a real-world trial happening in Sydney delivering valuable insights.

It is research that pushes us closer to fully integrated transport services in our increasingly crowded cities, enabling people to reduce their dependence on single-occupant vehicles. 

Some research areas remain worthy of ongoing investigation and trial, but are proving to be further off than previously anticipated, such as automated vehicles. They were once a frenzy of media commentary and speculation, yet the complexities of getting a computer to mimic a human driver and the challenge of winning community acceptance of this technology are now much clearer. 

Queensland is particularly active in Australia’s research into the benefits and challenges of vehicle connectivity and the safety and efficacy of highly automated vehicles. 

There is also some movement in collaboration to improve freight, albeit of a much less disruptive nature. Last year, we completed the well-received Freight Data Requirements Study on behalf of the Federal Department of Infrastructure to assist them with their development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. The department is now drawing on that study to inform their development of the National Freight Data Hub. We believe supply chains will greatly benefit from improved visibility, and this is supported by a suite of projects — currently information — that will devise practical and realistic ways to achieve this.

Another way our partners are looking to deliver better transport is by being more holistic. Integration of our transport and land planning is not a new concept, but it is one that deserves renewed attention for its potential to achieve simultaneously favourable social, environmental and economic outcomes.

There is already much diversity in the 39 projects in the iMOVE portfolio, and every day brings new opportunities.

Trends are emerging in what we have learnt and how we can build on this for future activities. 

Transport needs to continue widening its collaborations and embrace national coordination to ensure the benefits are shared as we all progress towards a better transport future — whether we choose to leave the house or not!

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