Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Autonomous vehicles, digital twins, last-mile delivery, ridesharing, micro-mobility, transport hubs, hyperloop, decarbonisation, flying taxis and informatics - the field of transportation is as electrified as the batteries that are supposed to power tomorrow's vehicles. Or maybe they won't? Maybe the future is hydrogen?

Given all the excitement and areas competing for your attention, where should you invest in this space? In 2022, as part of my DXC Leading Edge research project, I brought together a group of 22 volunteers with experience and expertise in transportation to map out the sector. For their time given over the year, as promised, this initial report is all creative commons share alike.

From the research exercise, a set of critical issues facing the transport industry emerged. These are: - increasing our understanding of transport supply chain, virtual as a transport system and public infrastructure matters.

Increase awareness of the transport supply chain.
As was made clear in the UK GOV, Transport Data Strategy [1], transportation data is often highly siloed for reasons of legal and contractual barriers, lack of incentives for open data, lack of standardised format and lack of leadership. The transport supply chain is fragmented and poorly understood, which has impacts from the resilience of the system to consumer access. As highlighted by Deloitte in 2017, there also exists an opportunity in opening up transport data[2]. As of 2022, the key challenge remains[3] the lack of data sharing between different transport operators.

Virtual as a transport system.
When we talk about city functions (police, restaurants, banks, shops) then we often talk about the ways of getting there (road, rail, paths) and the mode of transport (car, train, cycle). However, this is constrained to a physical space. More of today’s city functions can now be provided within virtual space, from building inspections[4] to council meetings[5]. The ways of this virtual space are cable and air, the mode of transport is internet access. Virtual is a transport system and has a material impact on other transport systems. This includes a demand for resources to an impact on congestion (figure 1.1). City planning that ignores the impact of this virtual transport system, would be akin to a digital twin that ignores roads.

Public infrastructure matters.
Whilst the 2023 UWE Bristol report[6] stated that “Road are the arteries of economic and social prosperity” and we are at a critical time for public investment, we should be mindful that virtual is a transport system. Public infrastructure is not just paths, roads and waterways but also cables and spectrum frequency. Iceland, Latvia and Estonia have all nationalised telecommunications infrastructure in order to improve quality of service and make them more accessible to consumers. Iceland regularly claims to have the world’s fastest and best-value internet[7] in Europe. Hence, whilst the group would agree with the UWE findings, it would also expand the idea of what should be public infrastructure.

Figure 1.1 – The impact of virtual on congestion.

The findings from the mapping research group are summarised in the following six box (Figure 1.2)

Figure 1.2 – The six boxes.



2.1 Priority
The process the research follows is detailed in section 3. One of the critical steps in this research is the creation of a priority list for investment. This priority list is shown in Figure 2.1 with a comparison to aggregated analyst reports, ordering of the list by ChatGPT and order of the list by BARD.

Figure 2.1 – Priority list and comparison to Analysts, ChatGPT-4 and BARD.


2.2 Discussion
The mapping group focused on the adoption of virtual spaces as its single highest priority item when it came to transport planning. This item did not feature strongly in the twelve analyst reports that were examined. Those were primarily concerned with the role of autonomous vehicles. This disparity continued down the priority list, with the mapping group focused on supply chain awareness, public infrastructure, decision support systems and government policy while the analyst focused on decarbonisation, emerging tech and the use of big data. The one overlap is the area of charging infrastructure which bizarrely the mapping group rated of higher priority (due to the connection with public infrastructure) than the analyst reports (despite their focus on autonomous vehicles). As an observer, it seems reasonable to conclude that the mapping group’s results represent a minority report which is against the consensus of analyst opinion.
2.3 What does this mean for me?
The process used has surfaced a different view on what we should be investing in, whether that view is more accurate than simply listening to analysts remains unanswered. Any investment will be highly contextual, as in there many types of organisations within the transportation field and Government is not the same as a commercial logistics company. Those caveats said, the priority list given in figure 2.1 can be used as a guide to asking questions of your context.
For example, if you are investing in building a digital twin of a city, you should be asking how the virtual world itself is modelled within the digital twin? If your organisation contains significant amounts of transport data, you should be asking how you are making this more open and exploring opportunities in that space? If you create policy that impacts the transport system, you should be asking how well do we understand the system? If you currently run a spoke and hub model of logistics, you should be asking whether you can distribute more to the edge?
2.4 Noteworthy
During the research, several noteworthy examples and papers were highlighted by the research team. These include: -

GITLAB, What is remote work / working from home[8]. A how-to guide for remote work.

House of Lords. Public transport in towns and cities[9]. Considered exemplary in its discussion of access and funding, including greater awareness of the transport supply chain and the use of digital advancements to allow consumers to plan journeys. However, in equal measure, the report fails to discuss ways of avoiding journeys altogether and the impact of virtual as a transport system.

Portugal, Digital Nomad Visas[10]. The first digital nomad visa in Europe which allows people to live in Portugal but work remotely. Seen by the group as a clear sign of Portugal embracing the changes and removing obstacles to virtual.

Isttelkom AS, common infrastructure is a must for savings in fiber optics[11]. Fibre / Cable are as much of a way of transport as roads and paths and hence require co-ordinated effort for the common good.

ZenobÄ“ Energy and TransGrid, Australia’s biggest electric bus depot offers solar and battery blueprint for future[12]. There are numerous complications in charging infrastructure including the capability of national grids built on AGC models. This use of solar, regenerative breaking and batteries was highlighted by group as a model to be copied.

France, the banning of short-haul flights[13]. Highlighted by the group as an example of active Government policy in encouraging alternative transport and change of consumer behaviour.

UK GOV, Transport Data Strategy[14]. Highlighted by the group as exemplary in its focus on poor awareness of the transport supply chain and the introduction of metrics to examine this sharing.


3.1 The Research Process
The complete process of determining the six box (figure 1.2), starting with the collection of words to categorisation to mapping to analysis to consolidation and finally synthesis is shown in Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 – The Research Process

Whilst the method enabled us to determine a different view for transportation, it is likely affected by the number of perspectives used. In this case, three were used – Changing Consumer Behaviour, Coherent City Transport and Logistics. Hence the result can only be considered relevant to those three perspectives.

The process is also relatively time-consuming: -
* Collection of words: 1 hour
* Categorisation of words and selection of perspectives: 1 hour
* Mapping of perspectives: 6 – 14 hours per map.
* Analysis of map and selection of priority areas: 2-3 hours.
* Consolidation and comparison: 2-3 hours
* Synthesis: 3-4 hours.

Should the reader wish to repeat this effort, then the entire process can take 15-26 hours for a single industry or topic, assuming any mapping work is done in parallel. For each map, a diverse group of people with a wide range of experience for the chosen topic are ideal. You should aim for at least 8 people per map.
The first step of the process is the group’s collection of words that matter for the future of transportation. This can be simply achieved by post-it notes on a miro or whiteboard (Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2 – the cloud of words related to the future of transportation.

It should be noted that in the collection, the group placed significant emphasis on common words discussing impacts on traditional transport systems – smart infrastructure, road safety, connected and autonomous vehicles, EVs and charging and sharing schemes. As an observer, it would be reasonable to say that the group initially started with relatively high degrees of alignment to the analyst reports with a focus on autonomous vehicles, ESG, emerging tech and data analytics.
The next step of the research process is to categorise the words into themes (highlighted in grey) and then, through a process of group voting select three themes as perspectives to map (highlighted in purple). This categorisation is shown in figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 – the categorisation of words into themes.

As an observer, I will note that at this stage, the only appearance of virtual was in terms of the metaverse (in relation to alternative transport) and remote working (in terms of changing consumer behaviours and demand). Virtual was not considered a major function of city planning but instead an outside technological impact with the focus remaining on concepts such as mobility hubs, sharing schemes and autonomous vehicles.
Each perspective was then mapped by the group until a consensus was achieved that the map was a useful representation of the space. Onto the maps were added areas of importance for investment. These were then subdivided into areas of highest priority.

Figure 3.4.1 – Transport Map from the perspective of coherent city transport.

As an observer, I want to highlight the significance of the map above. It was during the creation of this map that the group described how city functions had spaces they existed within, ways of getting to those spaces and modes of transportation. During the subsequent conversation, it was suggested that since city functions could exist not only in physical but virtual space, then there must be equivalent ways and modes of transport to those virtual spaces. The idea that virtual was itself a transport system was then raised. This was an entirely novel concept for the city planners who were part of the group and quickly led to the realisation that as a transport system then virtual has an impact on all other transport systems from resource usage to congestion (Figure 1.2).
Even though we don’t discuss virtual miles travelled, it has an impact. This realisation directly influenced the investment choices the group made, concentrating on the importance of virtual city function. This is shown in the investment map (Figure 3.4.2)

Figure 3.4.2 – Investment Map from the perspective of coherent city transport.

The other maps created are also provided for reference.

Figure 3.4.3 – Transport map from the perspective of logistics

Figure 3.4.4 – Investment Map from the perspective of logistics

Figure 3.4.5 – Transport map from the perspective of consumer behaviour

Figure 3.4.6 – Investment map from the perspective of consumer behaviour


The above maps were then consolidated to create the priority list in figure 2.1
The priority list and the maps formed the basis of the discussion which led to the creation of the six box (figure 1.2)
All the work is licensed creative commons share alike.
The raw code for the maps is stored in github[15].

[1] UK GOV, TRANSPORT DATA STRATEGY, MARCH 2023, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-data-strategy-innovation-through-data
[2] DELOITTE, OPEN DATA, JUNE 2012 (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/deloitte-analytics/open-data-driving-growth-ingenuity-and-innovation.pdf
[3] TRANSPORT CATAPULT, INNOVATING FOR A PANDEMIC RESILIENT PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM, NOV 2022 (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://cp.catapult.org.uk/report/innovating-for-a-pandemic-resilient-public-transport-system/
[4] OPEN GOV, VIRTUAL INSPECTION 101, 2023 (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://opengov.com/virtual-inspection/
[5] LGA, VIRTUAL COUNCIL MEETING SURVEY, 2023, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.local.gov.uk/publications/virtual-council-meeting-survey-2023
[6] UWE BRISTOL, KEY QUESTIONS FOR ROAD INVESTMENT, JANUARY 2023,(RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/10295773
[7]DIGITAL TV, ICELAND TOPS EUROPEAN INTERNET VALUE SURVEY, JULY 2023 (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.digitaltveurope.com/2023/07/17/iceland-tops-european-internet-value-survey/
[8] GITLAB, WHAT IS REMOTE WORK, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/remote-work-starter-guide/
[9] HOUSE OF LORDS, UK, PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN TOWN AND CITIES, NOV 2022, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld5803/ldselect/ldbuiltenv/89/89.pdf
[10] PORTUGAL DIGITAL NOMAD VISAS, 2023, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.portugal.com/travel/portugal-digital-nomad-visa-2023/
[11] ISTTELKOM, COMMON INFRASTRUCTURE IS A MUST FOR SAVINGS IN FIBER OPTICS, 2021, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023)   https://isttelkom.istanbul/en/common-infrastructure-is-a-must-for-savings-in-fiber-optics/
[12] THE DRIVEN, BUS DEPOT OFFERS SOLAR AND BATTERY BLUEPRINT,  JANUARY 2023, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://thedriven.io/2023/01/10/australias-biggest-electric-bus-depot-offers-solar-and-battery-blueprint-for-future/
[13] SAVE A TRAIN, HOW RAIL OUSTED SHORT HAUL FLIGHTS, FEB 2023 (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.saveatrain.com/blog/how-rail-ousted-short-haul-flights-in-europe/
[14] UK GOV, TRANSPORT DATA STRATEGY, MARCH 2023, (RETRIEVED JULY 2023) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-data-strategy-innovation-through-data
[15] Research 2022, https://github.com/swardley/Research2022