A Space for Transport Innovation

Teleportation, personal helicopters and James Bond-esque jetpacks. These are the transport methods that sprung to mind when I heard of the new Transport Systems Catapult’s ‘Imovation Centre’ opening in England last week.

In reality the innovators, entrepreneurs and research organisations that will inhabit the new centre are much acquainted with reality.

The headline of the centre’s opening was a demonstration of futuristic driverless pods. The pods, which showcase the LUTZ Pathfinder programme, are set to begin public testing in the near future.

But it’s not all about the pods. The centre will offer comprehensive modelling and testing facilities to firms developing a diverse range of innovative transport solutions. Already on the cards are improved airport data systems, smart traffic lights and sentiment mapping.

While I agree that smart traffic lights don’t have the same secret agent chic of personal jetpacks, the centre’s backers estimate that innovations from the ‘Imovation Centre’ will generate up to £90bn per year by 2025.

Business secretary Vince Cable, who was on hand to open the centre, said: “Britain has a long history of transport innovation; from the shipbuilders who paved the way for globalisation, to the railways, that underpinned the industrial revolution. This new innovation centre will ensure the UK is well placed to profit from the increased demand for high-tech transport solutions- creating jobs, supporting businesses, and driving economic growth.”

Smart transport technology is still very much in its infancy. While drone delivery takes a few tentative steps forward https://www.caledonian-couriers.co.uk/drone-delivery/ and Google tentatively throws away the car steering wheel, https://www.caledonian-couriers.co.uk/google-car/ we’ve still got a long way to go until the industry lives up to its projected value.

Chief executive of the Transport Systems Catapult, Steve Yianni said: “Intelligent mobility harnesses new technologies to create seamless journeys, where transport is smart and connected, and delays and congestions are a thing of the past. The ‘Imovation Centre’ will take the brightest solutions to the most pressing transport challenges, and help make those ideas a commercial success.”

So are the days of sitting in bumper-to-bumper city traffic a thing of the past? Shall we all be enjoying an effortless chauffeured glide through the countryside in our driverless cars? And, with all these boffins under one roof, how long before I can get my jetpack?

Unfortunately the first two questions remain vaguely open ended. With so many avenues being explored no one knows where the industry is going next.

The portrait of our future roads is a blank canvas and thousands are trying to sketch their own design.

And to the last question? Is there a secret team working in one of the top secret underground basement laboratories on some sort of back-mounted aerial technology? Will I be seeing a jetpack the next time I pop into Halfords?

“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” says Imovation spokesman David Reid. “And I think it’s about time we had some, I think.”