The UK’s transport infrastructure was at one point world-leading, with inner-city tram systems and the first ever underground metro, in the form of the London Underground. With privatisation and reduced government funding, the shape of public transport has changed for the worst – but the UK’s automotive future could be a paradigm shift away from conventional ideas of mobility. In what way could UK’s transport future differ from the present?
The Rise of the Ride-Share
Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have been the norm for some time, offering a traditional service in a sleek new format. Not only is the shift to app-based ride-hailing well-entrenched in modern society, but public opinion on other forms of access to private transport has also seen a significant shift in recent years. According to recent statistics published by the Driving Instructors’ Association, the number of UK internet searches for ‘ride sharing’ increased by a fifth in 2022 alone. The appetite is there for a system that pairs drivers with riders, whatever specific form that system takes.
Alternatives to Ownership
Meanwhile, further changes are being noted in the automotive world with regard to car ownership. These changes are a little more subtle, presenting as financial decisions and gap insurance opportunities over technological leaps. Nonetheless, they signify a shift in attitudes to transport, and a potential future make-up of the private transport landscape.
Drivers are more frequently utilising lease and car financing models, wherein they effectively pay a monthly fee for usage of their vehicle. Dependent on the financial model, invested money or the remaining value of the vehicle can be rolled towards a new model – but what is gap insurance then, and why is it part of this leap? Gap insurance protects up to the purchase value of a vehicle as opposed to its present-day value; in concert with standard insurance, it enables drivers to recoup all costs in the event of an accident, in turn making leases more viable.
There is a logical conclusion, though, to which the above innovations and transformations are inevitably reaching – and some iteration of it already exists commercially today. Mobility-as-a-Service, or MaaS, describes the incorporation of numerous public and private transport options into a digitally-enabled service or access portal. Rather than continuing along a path of private and long-term ownership of transport solutions, it is thought that our trend towards services and subscriptions will lead to an entirely new approach to transport.
The bones of this shift are already present, with ride-hailing app Uber having moved to integrate rail and cross-country bus service ticket purchasing into its app – presenting a tidy, one-stop user-friendly route from A to B. In the future, though, such services could well be publicly owned, and run the gamut from ride-hailing to bicycle hire and beyond. With electric bike and scooter schemes already expanding across major UK cities, the infrastructure will undoubtedly be there for a profound and complete MaaS system.