Connected transportation: putting the passenger first

by John Aloy, Managing Partner: Passenger Services, Telefónica UK

2016 is set to be a year of travel innovation for passengers. From the GATEway driverless car project in Greenwich to being able to find out which mode of transport is most likely to have a vacant seat for your journey. At O2, we work with transport providers to offer digital solutions that make connected transportation a reality. But what exactly do we bring to the table?

Well, for starters, we have over 25 million customers. We can collect anonymised and aggregated data on their movements through our Smart Steps solution. By introducing a small cell into a bus or train carriage we can estimate how many people are already on board. This gives us the capability to predict which carriage will have a vacant seat waiting for you. We can then relay that information to an app on your smartphone or a digital sign at a bus stop or train platform.

And then there’s O2 Wifi that provides free connectivity across 1000s of UK hotspots.  Many of you will have heard the prime minister’s pledge to give passengers free wifi on platforms and trains. Well, we’re helping some train operators to turn that pledge into a reality. Our mobile and wifi networks are constantly in sync so your device can assess which will give the best connectivity and automatically connect – now even the London Underground can’t stop my tweets from being sent!

Last but definitely not least, there’s O2’s involvement in the development of autonomous vehicles. This is where I see all the science fiction I watched as a kid come to life. Vehicle autonomy is particularly interesting to me as a Tesla driver. My car has autonomous driving features and a remote control function to help you park in tight spaces (although not yet enabled for UK use). Also, if you’ve ever been in one of the pods at London Heathrow, you will be delighted to hear that driverless shuttles are coming to the Greenwich peninsula so you can enjoy a futuristic journey on your way to the O2 arena. The shuttles will also be equipped with the latest high-speed connectivity, both 4G and wifi, so you can share that excitable en route selfie.

With all these advances, I’m left wondering what sort of travel experience my four-year-old will encounter when she’s all grown up and travelling by road, by rail, by bus or by air.

Visit our website to find out more about O2’s work in Travel and Transport.