With fewer people moving due to the global pandemic, whether that is commuting to work or socialising on the weekends, cities are experiencing a unique challenge that they haven’t faced in this capacity before.
Public transport, which has been by far the most efficient and sustainable form of travel, has crashed this year due to lockdowns, contamination concerns and, generally, the fear of being crammed onto buses and trains.
This is a huge challenge for cities and local authorities to figure out how they can tackle this head on. The western world has not experienced a standstill like this since World War 2.
However, perhaps this is an opportunity for the transport industry to reflect on centuries of movement within cities, from the horse and cart to the underground tube network. Now is the time to restructure how cities can efficiently and safely move people on a day-to-day basis.
Innovative start-ups are using this moment to push their solutions, from autonomous vehicles to completely new passenger and freight transportation systems. One of these start-ups is BeemCar, which is creating a high capacity automated urban transport system designed to tackle congestion through a cost effective, zero carbon, energy efficient alternative.
In addition, and with the arrival of Covid-19, CEO Robin Brownsell has launched a report into how BeemCar can help cities overcome not only congestion issues but also the spread of viruses. He and his team are focused on providing a guarantee that people travelling in BeemCar pods will be Covid-free.
“One of the big things we wanted to deliver was a safe and affordable system,” he explains. “We have adapted our system to incorporate new safety measures, such as automatically sanitising each BeemCar pod for every passenger trip”
“If you factor in what is happening now with manual intervention to achieve the same level of protection, you are not only slowing the process down but also making it much more expensive overall.”
Automatically sanitising after somebody exits a pod before the next person enters, will significantly lower the chance of infection. But this is only the beginning of the automated solution. “We aim to transform the cost of building and running smart mobility for cities who are faced with budget restrictions and reduced revenue from traditional transport solutions.”
Beemcar has been working with the World Economic Forum (WEF) initiative to build a new inclusive, sustainable and resilient mobility system .
The aim is to protect everyone and stop the spread of viruses, well after Covid. Together, along with a number of like-minded individuals and innovative companies, they will collectively explore all the opportunities on the table.
“The WEF has started to convene a number of workshops to look at the problem under the overall banner of #TheGreatReset and how Covid has forced people to look at new ways of operating,” says Brownsell.
“Beemcar is working alongside the WEF to go beyond an isolated regional approach, analysing what needs to be done to deliver a global solution for cities around the world.”
Over the next 12 months, the WEF will continue its Inclusivity Quotient project which is all about providing safe, affordable and balanced transport for cities, recognising the importance of future mobility solutions such as the BeemCar Personal Rapid Transit system.
BeemCar will be a part of the first workshop, titled ‘Urban Mobility’, which will be held in November, and in which, they hope to involve UK government and academia. From electric scooters and autonomous trucks, to delivery drones and hyperloop systems, the mobility sector has seen tremendous innovation, change and disruption. It is time to harness this innovation and apply it to the real-world problems cities are facing today.
By identifying the key points of innovation and transformation within the movement of people and goods, the WEF will utilise its new mobility connections to shape the future of transport.
From Local to Global
There are a number of regional and global initiatives trying to fix this problem. For example, the role of Beemcar is to reduce the dependence on private vehicles and relieve stress from public transport networks in cities.
As you can expect, it would be impossible in today’s world to bring in a system like BeemCar overnight, without regulation, political support and infrastructure funding. To get the wheels in motion, BeemCar will first rollout in the Middle East but, unlike many other projects, Brownsell stresses that this is not your typical case study.
“Case studies don’t work,” he exclaims. “The history of personal rapid transit is littered with tiny case study projects that never saw the light of day. One reason why these haven’t been taken up is lack of capital investment; there have been few strategic approaches taken to fix this and we wish to avoid the small case study project by galvanising global impact funds and support to solve this problem. It’s a problem all major cities face and one that needs an answer now. “
One of the reasons BeemCar was chosen from over 700 companies by the Dubai government was because Brownsell promised to bring the best of the UK engineering to the Middle Eastern vision, gaining vital governmental support.
“The government in Dubai gave us a route to look at in the city centre,” says Brownsell. “We immediately identified that this route was not going to deliver what the area needed. So, we proposed a much more comprehensive network that could cover its own capital and operating costs. This presented us as the best and most immediate solution to their problem, and we signed an MOU in February to continue that cooperation”.
According to Brownsell, public transport has gone in reverse in terms of subsidiary requirements.
“Quite simply, it is not getting the amount of paying passengers that it requires. To overcome this, the BeemCar team have been working on how our personal rapid transit system can cover capital expenditure and operating costs, by providing a comprehensive and safe network that attracts the right level of customers. “
“The problem with case studies is that they will only ever be case studies; they will never cover costs, which means it cannot progress and develop,” he adds. “We plan to establish a Global Smart Mobility Centre in the UK from where we will establish the BeemCar system with passenger carrying certification. We are already getting enquires from cities around the world who are hearing about our plans and keen to be involved.”
This plan actually came into play before the pandemic, although it has now become even more important to cities around the world who need a solution like this implemented as quickly as possible. Brownsell and his team are now focused on getting more governments on board to help propel this innovation into reality.
What started as a solution to major congestion around the world has developed into a direct solution to preventing the spread of viruses and eliminating contamination in city mobility systems, without affecting operational effectiveness.