Future Transport Youth Summit: #thecarisourking

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By Nicole Gismondo:

Transport for NSW is in the planning stages of looking into the future of transport and technological development. As part of that process they held the Future Transport Youth Summit in September to tap into the bright minds of 100 interdisciplinary university students. Students’ area of study ranged from the typical planning courses to psychology and my own study of law/international studies. All universities in the Sydney basin were represented. The event was steeped in high level corporate sponsorship, including that of IBM, Optus and Westpac.

We were firstly educated on the three possible outcomes of current technology trends: ‘why travel if I don’t have to?’, ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘the car is (still) our king’.  We were then sorted into each scenario with a twist: it was to be looked at in a vacuum. We were tasked with “what is the end game of this scenario?” to test the limits of our design thinking capacity.

Second we learned about the potential capacities of our technology stream. Then we adopted the personas of Central Coast businesswoman with a young family Jenny, Parramatta city slicker and student Mai, and Goulbourn apprentice tradie Harry.

I was Harry in ‘the car is our king’ scenario. The future of the car is autonomous driving, but inasmuch as it seems to mostly work for cities, the question was how can it cope with regional areas? Harry had the unique challenges of having to travel to both TAFE and work, as well as to his sporting hobbies and making time to visit Canberra and Wollongong to see his family. Eventually we decided that they key problems for Harry were saving time, money and (because it’s hip and trendy) the environment while achieving the perfect work-life balance. Sounds difficult I know.

In this scenario, people cared less about travel times as they were able to function in the space of a car without actually needing to drive the whole way themselves. However, autonomous driving, drones and a lot of the technologies in this area have a lot of safety concerns. They key benefit of the car is with the individualised space that it brings, facilitating  personalised service. Capitalising on both matters we devised a plan to make Harry’s life much better.

Enter the “Sushi Train”. This technology would function as essentially a train, but with capacity for cars to hook into it for travel, rather than relying on individual cars to wholly drive themselves. The car of course, would be reinvented too, having two components: a driving pod and a boot pod, so Harry could transport all the stuff he needs around. The key benefit of the second pod was that it could transport things without you by connecting to the broader “Sushi Train” network, and even earn you some extra cash while you’re out partying, by renting it out to Australia Post. It delivers flexibility and safety, with all the benefits of autonomous driving that mean that driving becomes less of a physical strain.

At the end of the day, we came closer and closer to presenting our proposals to the higher ups, with only one chosen from each scenario for the main round of presentations. At first our IBM mentors were a bit concerned with our left of field idea, but it proved to be a hit with the corporate judges, commenting on both the flexibility and the capacity to integrate with the shared economy we brought. As one of the two presenters, that meant I ended up presenting to the entire Summit!

After hearing the other presentations, I was baffled at the different pathways that the technologies could give us. ‘We’re all in this together’ presented an integrated app to plan our entire transport journey through any method available while ‘why travel if I don’t have to?’ presented a hubs and pods model of community living. In the end, it is highly likely that we’ll end up with a combination of all three, but it was highly insightful to see where each could take us.

It was a top day, learning so much about the future of our transport system, and it is exciting!

See all the twitter banter for the day (including my own live tweets) with the hashtag #ftnsw

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