Driving innovation for a better normal post-COVID

The pandemic lockdowns over the last three months have resulted in seismic shifts in how society, the public and private sector operate. Twitter announced employees can now work from home “indefinitely”, air pollution in Los Angeles dropped to unprecedented levels, and now cities are announcing bold new streetspace plans that will overhaul how that space is used. Coronavirus is undoubtedly forcing a new normal - one that is greener, more sustainable, and understanding of society’s needs - but through collaboration, public-private partnerships can innovate for a better normal in a post-COVID world. Together, both sectors can work to reimagine the building blocks of urban environments, reinvent the future of public services for citizens, and construct synergies that allow the tech sector to continuously support public services. 

Innovating where it’s needed most. 

In addition to enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of public transport options, many stations and interchanges are signposting social distancing measures to maintain the health and safety of passengers. Furthermore, a lack of passengers means a lack of income.

For public transport bodies, partnerships with the tech sector can create valuable insights and offer innovative advances that they would not be able to leverage or deploy on their own. By partnering with hardware agnostic and modular software developers, policy makers, transportation planners and other public bodies can leverage behavioural insight data not only to design safe urban environments, but also to understand how society is responding and adhering to social distancing measures.

The time is now: public-private partnerships are already spearheading change for public services. 

As part of the Innovate UK COVID-19 Rapid Response competition, Humanising Autonomy is partnering  with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), to deploy its behavioural analytics software to analyse video footage from existing CCTV infrastructure at two transport interchanges and one bus station to study the behaviours of pedestrians and transport users. The analysis dashboard will enable TfGM to understand situations where social distancing adherence is challenging and provide insights into the number of people in groups and their directional movements. 

Leveraging pre-COVID collaborations to change urban mobility systems.

Prior to the COVID outbreak, Humanising Autonomy was already collaborating with public and private partners across the globe to drive the transition towards safer urban mobility environments. As part of Transport for London’s Bus Safety Innovation and FreightLab Challenges, we are actively tackling some of London’s most pressing mobility-related challenges by shaping bus safety standards and urban freight routes. 

Working directly with business and public mobility partners has exposed us to a variety of hurdles and challenges, and each project requires a different approach and long-term vision. However, all require agility and public partners that are open to leveraging new, innovative technologies to help them harness the benefits of their already existing infrastructure and data. 

Building a better normal for a smarter, more sustainable future. 

These partnerships are a great example of how the tech sector can partner with public transport systems to support services now, throughout the transition to a better normal, and in the future. Examples such as these demonstrate how technology companies can leverage data collected by public services to innovate public services of the future, and create new systems tailored to the needs of populations and cities. Public-private partnerships can usher in not only a new normal, but a better one, for a smarter, safer, and more sustainable future.

Patricia (Paddy) La Torre, Public Policy and Partnerships Manager, Humanising Autonomy 


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