The author: Frederic Kalinke


Written by Frederic Kalinke

Ground transportation panel @ITB Berlin

SilverRail’s co-founder Will Phillipson recently joined Philip Wolf, Founder of Phocuswright, on stage at ITB Berlin alongside an illustrious collection of ground transportation start-ups, including: Uber, BlaBlaCar, Blacklane, Busbud and CarTrawler.

Everyone had a different pitch, mostly around how technology and information enabled their businesses and made the taxi, the train, the bus, and the shared car more accessible to consumers for intercity or intracity travel; all areas that were traditionally underserved by technology.

But what truly united everyone on stage was that they were all chipping away at private car ownership.

Why the bad press? Let’s start by looking at the stats.

  • There are 2 Billion cars in the world;
  • They are unused 95% of the time;
  • Parked up and going nowhere for 23 hours a day.

Not the greatest use of our resources. However, recent trends are now suggesting that we are emerging from the ‘Peak Car’ era, with some academics suggesting this was just a short-term blip.

The ‘peak car’ theory emerged in the 1990s when vehicle traffic worldwide not only fell short of projections but, in many places, significantly reduced. This resulted in academics hypothesising that vehicle miles travelled (VMT), predominantly by private car, had peaked, and would from then on fall in a sustained manner. The evidence of decline was undeniably clear, the only uncertainty was whether it would continue into the future.

The theory has recently been disputed by the UK Department for Transport, which predicts that road traffic in the United Kingdom will grow by 50% over the coming 25 years, with Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, linking the blip to the recession, and predicting that traffic will now increase again as the economy improves.

This view has also been supported with recent data from the Department for Transport (DfT), which in 2014 saw motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain reach 311 billion vehicle miles, 2.4% higher than in 2013, and represented the fastest annual growth since 1996.[1]
However, in ‘mega cities’ like London, road traffic remains in decline[2], as residents no longer rely on their cars but on public transport, shared cars and bikes, enabled by journey planning and real-time data on their smartphones.

This presents a significant opportunity for the new players making ground transportation more accessible, as well as enabling us to move faster and further on mature transport infrastructure. Not only will these players help improve the consumer experience, but they will improve a global problem, helping to reduce pollution, noise and stress; ultimately powering a fundamental shift in how we move.