Britain's railway industry has moved to make life easier for future commuters, laying out a roadmap to modernize its transport systems for the digital era. The strategy includes connected trains that communicate to avoid congestion and more frictionless gate entry through a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, and possibly one day, eye and fingerprint scanning.
The Rail Delivery Group, the body that represents Britain's passenger train companies, laid out the blueprint noting three key areas where technology can make things easier for passengers. One of these is a type of seat design that is claimed to allow 20 to 30 percent more seats in each carriage, along with another that changes its configuration during peak times to make space for 15 to 20 percent more seats. These will be built into existing trains this year.
Intelligent trains comprise a second area, which are self-regulating rail cars that will communicate with each other as a way of autonomously minimizing conflicts at junctions. The idea is that this will allow more frequent trips and fewer delays, and the UK government has committed £450 million (US$562 million) to trial a new signaling technology to that end.
But where things really get interesting is in the replacement of physical tickets. Trials will kick off later in the year on a line between Oxford and London where passengers can use an app and the Bluetooth signals in their smartphones to open the gate. According to the Rail Delivery Group, this could eventually be replaced by biometric technologies such as fingerprint or iris-scanning.
We have reached out for more details on how far along these solutions are exactly and are yet to hear back, but recent advances suggest that they might not be all that far off. Last year Mastercard announced plans to allow customers to make payments with selfies (seriously), while many of today's flagship smartphones can be unlocked with a fingerprint. Meanwhile, facial recognition is already in use at some of Britain's airports, and Australia is looking to use the technology in place of passports for 90 percent of its airport arrivals.