|This blog post is a joint collaboration between Lucas Young and Anthony Incorvati. Read more about the authors on their respective author page.
Travel restrictions, working from home and social distancing have all had an impact on the way people and goods move around the world. Transportation UK and US practice leaders, Lucas Young and Anthony Incorvati, examine global trends and the role technology plays in keeping transport services running.
Public transport and aviation at reduced speed
Among industries hardest hit by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, both aviation and public transport suffered staggering economic losses when global passenger numbers plummeted amid virus concerns and government warnings. Seemingly overnight, air travel ceased, and lockdown restrictions limited urban mobility to essential workers only.
While both industries have seen a slow upturn during recent months, they continue to face new COVID-19 related challenges as many workers return to offices and students resume in class learning. Mitigating the risk of contagion in crowded, closed environments is a shared priority among passengers, staff and travel providers alike, however there is no straight-forward solution to matching demand and capacity with social distancing and occupancy guidelines, while also charting a course towards returned profitability.
Passenger confidence is key
Many industry experts agree that the first stop on the road to recovery is winning back passenger confidence. To do that, transport providers need to create environments that make travelers feel safe from the risk of infection. While cities and airlines around the world quickly adopted improved cleaning and sanitization protocols, they still struggle to manage expectations associated with social distancing and face mask compliance. Differences in local legislation and public opinion notwithstanding, some transit authorities view enforcement of these mandates and guidelines as beyond the scope of their purview. With driver/operator assaults already being of high concern in the transit environment, we continue to hear reports of increased verbal and physical aggression against transit personnel who attempt to prevent or limit ridership owing to overcrowding or face mask non-compliance.
Technology helps keep transport services running
While not equipped to enforce local public health mandates, transport service providers do recognize consumer demand for reliable and safe transit at reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is why they increasingly turn to technology to analyze passenger counts, flows and demographics, as well as alert them to overcrowding on rolling stock and platforms. Video is often the sensor of choice for these solutions, and the inherent processing capability of Axis cameras means they are invariably on the top of the list.
Real-time acquisition and dissemination of data helps transit authorities predict passenger and vehicle movements, optimize efficiency and minimize the number of people in confined spaces. Those that can successfully empower passengers with this information via real-time itinerary planning services are also better positioned to increase customer satisfaction and fast-track their recovery. Additionally, the use of video-based data for predictive and preventive maintenance also allows operators to optimize their vehicle (asset) utilization.
With the onslaught of AI / Deep Learning offerings coming into the market, some transit agencies are starting to leverage video data acquisition with these newer computer vision technologies to better understand occupancy and wait times, and are looking to push real-time notifications out to passenger transit mobile apps.
Essentials and eCommerce fueling cargo & logistics
Not all transportation segments have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cargo and logistics companies have remained relatively strong during the economic downturn, bolstered initially by high demands for food, therapeutics, medical supplies, and yes – toilet paper. Delivery drivers were suddenly elevated to “essential worker” status as grocery stores struggled to keep pace with initial consumer demand. And the industry has continued its positive track, sustained largely by an ever-increasing online shopping trend. It’s a trend that’s expected to continue, and one that will arguably accelerate the transformation of the cargo and logistics industry, as e-tailers like Amazon create their own fleets of air cargo transport planes and delivery trucks, as well as new warehouse and distribution centers.
The future looks bright
There will always be a need to move people and goods around the world and we continue to be bullish on the future. Ridership in all modes of travel will come back, and we only see a positive direction for the transportation segment. Despite short-term job furloughs and re-organizations, large capital projects that were in motion prior to the pandemic may have hit a small road bump with work pauses, but these long-term projects continue to move forward in their design and build phases. Some are even being accelerated to take advantage of the reduction in travelers. Governments are also investing in large economic infrastructure projects as part of their pandemic stimulus packages in the EU, the US and other countries around the world. As previously mentioned, Cargo & Logistics, maritime and freight rail are all on track for a quick return to business as more people shop online. And while it may take longer, aviation too will work its way back to some level of “new normal”.
Whether from pandemics, autonomous vehicles, lifestyle changes or micro-mobility trends, the future of transportation continues to evolve. And Axis, together with our partners, will continue to innovate to meet new demands in this changing world – delivering intelligent connected technology to enable real-time decision making as well as long-term mobility planning.