Comment

30.06.17

Harnessing data sharing in transport

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 17

Simon White of Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) argues that the UK can be at the forefront of innovative mobility solutions if the government encourages better data sharing in the transport sector.

By the end of 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices globally collecting over 2.3 zettabytes of data each year. Data gathered from these devices can underpin solutions that support integrated, efficient and sustainable transport systems – what the TSC calls Intelligent Mobility (IM). 

Mobility solutions are already coming to market. The sharing and release of data on arrivals, departures, timetables, routes and fares through application programming interfaces (APIs) by Transport for London has supported the development of over 200 apps, saving Londoners time and money. 

Solutions like these are only the tip of the iceberg. Taking advantage of advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence and the lower cost of computing, data can be used to power everything from autonomous vehicles to integrated smart ticketing, as well as many other solutions not yet imagined. 

Benefits of data sharing 

If we encourage data sharing, the UK could be at the forefront of developing world-leading transport solutions whilst securing a share of a global IM market estimated to be worth £900bn by 2025. Underpinned by data, the IM sector can become a source of high-skill jobs and economic growth. 

Innovators can use transport data to create new solutions to support public sector reform, increase productivity, support regional economic growth and expand exports. IM can also play a crucial role in delivering the UK’s Industrial Strategy. 

Sharing data to build mobility solutions such as journey planners, control systems and connected vehicles can save businesses money by reducing congestion — worth £4bn per annum in terms of saved time by 2025 in the UK. 

There are also broader social and environmental benefits to data-enhanced technology. For instance, automation of transport could reduce the number of accidents on our roads caused by human error and a more efficient system will help reduce emissions. 

Why are we not sharing data? 

Many of the benefits data sharing can bring could be realised today with technology that has already be developed. However, current levels of data sharing in the UK transport sector constrain the development of new mobility solutions. 

The TSC’s analysis revealed core reasons why organisations lack incentives to share data: 

  • The fear that shared data could lead to breaches in privacy, security and safety
  • The belief that the costs of sharing data outweigh the benefits
  • The focus by organisations on their own mode of transport, limiting opportunities and awareness to make data available beyond their segment
  • A shortage of data literacy skills in the sector 

Industry is taking steps to improve access to data, yet these actions do not go far enough, fast enough. This hinders UK growth in the sector and its ability to reap the benefits of new mobility solutions. 

We estimate that if action is taken to support open and shared data we could unlock £14bn per annum in benefits by 2025. If not, the UK will not be in a position to lead the development of new disruptive technologies and the resulting transport provision will remain siloed and inefficient. 

What can the government do to help? 

The transport industry recognises its role in improving access to data, but it needs help to co-ordinate a system-wide approach. The TSC is asking government to work with industry to create cultural change across the sector around data sharing. We recommend government should: 

  1. Establish a Policy Advisory Group comprising industry, government and academia
  2. Develop and publish amendable contract and licensing templates for use across industry to reduce the time and costs to agree data sharing
  3. Provide guidance on how data can be shared or opened between organisations without breaching competition law or regulations in order to reduce uncertainty and risks
  4. Continue to publish open data in a way that focuses on the full journey in order to break down barriers between different transport modes
  5. Ensure civil servants involved in transport have the right training to understand the importance of shared and open data and how new solutions are facilitated by this 

Getting data right can help the UK be at the forefront of new mobility solutions and harness these to be a catalyst for economic growth and wider social benefits. Acting now will maximise the future benefits and ensure we can enjoy them as soon as possible.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To read TSC’s full briefing paper, visit:

W: www.ts.catapult.org.uk/im-resources

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