Are we open-minded enough for open data?

Now is the time to make Sweden a global leader in public transport. We have the technology. We have the know-how. And there’s plenty of money on the move. But are we innovative enough?

I’m the CEO of Samtrafiken, a company with a federal ownership that consists of all Public Transport Authorities and most commercial operators, more or less the entire sector in Sweden. This collaborative aspect makes our country’s public transport unique globally.

Samtrafiken’s expertise is, firstly, to collect the nation’s public transport data; secondly, to create standards for sales and ticketing systems; and thirdly, making sure that all operators can sell trips that combine each others’ transport options.

What’s most important in this context: Samtrafiken currently runs the industry initiative Trafiklab, an open data network portal.

But what industry do we really operate in? Is it the public transport sector? Is it IT? Infrastructure? Think about that for a second.

Swedes have never before needed this large amount of public transportation. Train tracks are full. We can’t squeeze in more subway departures. City buses that on the same line are spotted driving bumper to bumper like truck platoons.

And yet: We have never before used cars as much in Sweden as last year. Economy is booming, the population is growing and cities are expanding. Factors that spur transporation needs as the average commuting distance is increasing by the mile.

We cannot continue to expand any kind of transportation, unless cities will die from infrastructure coronary.

We need to get smarter.

Let’s define the future of public transport as ”individual travel with shared resources”. You either share seats in the same vehicle or combine a time sequence, such as car pooling.

The dominant player in this arena is DIDI Chuxing, the world’s largest traffic system based on algorithms. These guys are the mega Uber of China. Their business model is based on shared resouces, mostly cars. Today DIDI Chuxing deliver 350 individual transportations … per second. All day, every day to 450 million users. They have become the car industry’s biggest power player.

Think again. What business is DIDI in? Public transport? The car industry? Automatization, algorithms, AI?

What we do know is that digitalization tends to kill old darlings in every sector it enters. For us, it’s the timetable and the ticket that are soon to be extinct.

The first time I came to Epicenter a few years ago Ola opened the gate by a chip in his hand. At Samtrafiken, we are working on standardizing ID-based travelling. Your chip talks directly to the system that grants you the right to jump on the next driverless bus.

Simple solutions drive sales.

The future travel solutions will continue to turn over huge amounts of money. No player, not even DIDI, will be able to avoid competition in their markets.
From what arena will the of the public transport industry move in? Perhaps it’s Google, Apple, Amazon. Perhaps today’s transport players can move fast enough? Perhaps you can make it happen?

Because the market is far from saturated. The results of the most recent Urban Mobility Index created by Arthur D. Little show that Stockholm ranks second after Singapore. Still, we only use around half of our total mobility capacity.

Whatever industry you’re coming from – take a look at public transport. There are much more solutions out there to be created by those who are daring enough to challenge the old industry truths.

The catalyst for this innovation is open data. Today’s open public transport data in Trafiklab is far from complete in all aspects, but a collaborative effort will refine our open API:s.

Let’s be open minded enough for open data.

The speech was held by Gerhard Wennerström at Sime Summer the 31st of May.