Future mobility for rural communities10 Jun 2020

Creating innovative solutions to the travel problems facing those living in rural communities has been the focus of the latest challenge set by the RAC Foundation and Royal Automobile Club to students at the Royal College of Art.

Those studying for the college’s Intelligent Mobility masters’ programme were asked to run their attention away from visions of the future of the urban landscape to the surrounding settlements – the dormitory and satellite towns and villages that so many of us live in.

The commission was born of the fact that even if these commuters might use mass transit options for the trunk of their commuting journey, they often face a ‘first-and-last-mile’ challenge in getting between home and the railway station.

Others, who don’t commute into the city, might be making relatively short trips in places where public mass transit was never likely to be a viable option – even before the recent concept of ‘social distancing’ became a thing – because the population simply isn’t large enough to generate enough demand, added to which narrow streets and country lanes create their own environmental and road safety issues.

Amongst the concepts to emerge are:

  • JUSTABUS, an on-demand, self-driving bus that’s just half the width of a car, ideal for those bespoke journeys along the narrowest of thoroughfares.
  • WAYGO, a travel pod that can change in size depending on whether it is to carry one person or more.
  • Star Road, an interactive lighting system with pressure-sensitive pads that illuminate the pathway when people tread on them, cutting down on power usage and the blight of light pollution.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“The purpose of this challenge was never about creating near-market solutions – frankly the opposite. It was about asking the best and brightest transport designers of the future to allow their imaginations to roam freely, given their own expectations about where not just tech but other issues such as the whole-life sustainability of solutions might take us.

“But don’t be surprised to find a few years down the line that some of these concepts however zany, are nearer to market than you and I might have believed.”