Featured Article : Tech Travel Trends

In this article, we take a look at a few examples of nascent travel and delivery options in action.

Many New And Innovative Options

With so many innovative technologically advanced (and green) transport, travel, and delivery products and systems now being used in the real world, let’s update ourselves on what’s happening and what the near future could soon look like … coming soon to a city near you.

Vertical Take-Off Urban Air Taxi Test Successful 

A full-scale, remote controlled prototype of Bristol-based startup Vertical Aerospace’s vertical take-off VX4 air taxi recently completed its first untethered flight successfully. The aircraft, which is intended for use as a minimal noise and zero operating emissions taxi can transport up to four passengers, over distances of up to 100 miles and achieve a cruising speed of 150 miles per hour.  The VX4 can also be used as a medivac (medical evacuation) or cargo plane. The company says the VX4 air taxi, which is battery-powered and has electric motors mounted on movable nacelles is capable of flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf in just 13 seconds!

Back in May, Vertical Aerospace reported that South Korea’s leading mobility firm Kakao Mobility had pre-ordered up to 50 of the VX4 aircraft. Kakao Mobility runs South Korea’s most popular taxi-hailing app, Kakao T, providing taxi-hailing, designated driver booking, parking space search, and Kakao Navi app. Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical’s Founder and CEO, said: “With its over 30 million registered users, Kakao Mobility is the go-to choice to ‘hail a ride’ and with our partnership, we look forward to people across South Korea being able to fly in a VX4 in the years to come.” 

Europe’s First Driverless Robots Take To The Road In Lithuania 

A collaboration between Estonia-based startup Clevon and Lithuanian delivery platform LastMile has seen Europe’s first small fleet of (three) driverless robots take to public roads in Estonia’s capital city of Vilnius. The battery powered delivery robots, known as Autonomous Robot Carriers (ARCs), look a little like a cross between a golf buggy and a tiny truck and are already being used to deliver groceries from the IKI supermarket store on Mindaugas Street to shoppers in the city centre.  The ARCs have different size and lockable compartments for smaller and larger online grocery orders and the fleet can deliver seven customer orders in a single run.  The many benefits of the ARCs include zero CO2 emissions, reducing ‘last-mile’ labour costs by 80-90 per cent, while their small size means they can quickly (and safely) navigate city centre streets – great for historic cities with old-town (i.e. small) street areas.

First Biometric Check-In Tunnel Opens at St Pancras For Eurostar 

The first-ever biometric ‘Smartcheck’ corridor for train travel has opened Eurostar’s London terminal in St Pancras station. The contactless check-in tunnel, developed by UK tech firm iProov, acts as a replacement for ticket gates and manual border checks and uses a facial verification checkpoint, enabling passengers to walk straight through the tunnel rather than queue and wait. The SmartCheck solution behind iProov’s tunnel incorporates iProov’s Biometric Solution Suite with Biometric checkpoint, coupled with Entrust’s Identity Verification as a Service (IDVaaS) technology for identity orchestration and digital travel credential (DTC) management.

Andrew Bud (founder and CEO of iProov) said of the new high-tech tunnel: “The rollout of SmartCheck in Eurostar’s Business Premier check-in at London St Pancras is significant because it clearly demonstrates how facial biometric technology can be used to manage border control in a smarter and more efficient way, to benefit both organisations and passengers at scale. By creating a biometric corridor, we are moving security checks away from the station, saving precious time and space at the border, streamlining the boarding process to one that’s far faster, more convenient, less crowded and stressful, yet even more secure.” 

Popular Dutch e-Bike Maker’s Bankruptcy 

As in any market, it’s not all good news for all the players, even if they have funding and innovative products.

Dutch e-bike startup VanMoof, one of the most heavily funded e-bike startups in the world, has shocked owners by being declared bankrupt after 14 years. A tweet from one of the company’s founders, Taco Carlier, apologised to customers and employees, saying that the company had tried to secure investment and a buy-out from other companies but had failed to do both. The company had been making a loss on its e-bikes for years which some financial commentators have blamed on the high price of the bikes (2,000 euros each) and high costs to maintain and repair bikes while they were under warranty. Due to the need for custom parts and specialised software to operate the bikes, customers now find themselves in uncertain territory and it’s been reported that many customers have threatened to sue.

VanMoof, however, is one of many players in the growing e-bike market which was valued at SD 37.47 billion in 2022 and has been projected to grow from USD 43.32 billion this year to USD 119.72 billion by 2030.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The promised future of driverless, electric vehicles such as the air taxi (soon to be operating in South Korea) and driverless trains in the UK (Thameslink ATO system), as well driverless delivery vehicles is now beginning in earnest. Many startups and more well-known established companies (e.g. Amazon) have trialled drones and driverless systems that have the benefits of zero-emissions (electric, battery powered), beating crowds and congestion while offering the efficiencies of robots and we are now starting to see them being approved and used on public roads and in the airspace above.

There are now exciting opportunities for many businesses in growing new markets related to these vehicles and in using them to add value, cut costs, and improve services in existing industries. Reducing congestion and emissions, while improving customer experiences, and offering them new and exciting and travel options (vertical taxis) and delivery options is definitely on the map. With a climate emergency, a growing population and advances in technology, reliance of fossil fuels (and a legacy of old transport and delivery ideas) is starting to be replaced gradually with a variety of new, greener, and more efficient alternatives that also offer commercial benefits to their operators.

Transport systems are now changing due to investment and large R&D spends and many innovative startups with products years in the making are now finally coming home to roost. The hope is that the changes will pay off environmentally, commercially, plus make travel and delivery more effective and give customers better experiences that match the expectations of this technically advanced future.

Doubtless, all of these concerns will require investment in managing all the data and security!

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