Smart travel ideas are getting about

It's exciting times for transport.

Across the world, conferences, forums and festivals have been showcasing the latest innovations that could revolutionise the way we travel.

An example of this is the recent Imagine Festival, in the United Kingdom.

The event brought together young entrepreneurs, who presented creative ways to overcome the travel dilemmas we are facing, including congested transport infrastructure.

These technologies are not just creating a better environment for car-based travel, but also finding ways to use new technologies (such as information communication technologies and the internet) to influence travel behaviour.

This includes incentivising low-carbon transport modes (e.g. walking, cycling, public transport) through better journey information and provision, as well as offering rewards for winning travel challenges.

The entrepreneurial opportunities relating to transport are endless.

Finding novel ways to use new technologies to provide a low-carbon, equitable transport system is win-win.

But why aren't we seeing these innovations arising from New Zealand?

Well, we are!

There are some emerging New Zealand businesses that are providing innovative services, harnessing the internet.

A good example is YourDrive (www.yourdrive.co.nz), a car-sharing service founded by Oscar Ellison.

Much like renting someone's crib, YourDrive allows customers to hire another person's car for a period of time (from an hour to a few weeks), when they don't need it.

This is sharing at its finest.

It makes productive use of cars sitting on driveways across New Zealand not being used.

It also fills a need for people without a vehicle, whose lifestyles don't demand vehicle ownership, but who might like to have a car for specific purposes.

Potential and necessary changes to the transport system were also discussed at another European event.

The International Transport Forum Summit 2015 took place in Germany in late May.

This invitation-only event brings together more than 1000 people from government, academia and industry to discuss topical transport issues.

New Zealand has the presidency as Transport Minister Simon Bridges is the head of the International Transport Forum.

The theme and agenda for the event was therefore set by New Zealand, and centred on ''Transport, Tourism and Trade''.

The forum provides the opportunity for New Zealand's representatives, including Mr Bridges, to see what is happening overseas, and hopefully to bring some of these insights home with them.

An important feature of the 2015 OECD-backed transport forum is the opportunity it gave to discuss climate change mitigation before the Paris conference of parties (COP) climate negotiations in December this year.

As yet, there isn't any evidence of the types of systemic low-carbon transitions we require, but there has been increased talk of support for electric vehicle uptake in order to make use of our low-carbon electricity system, and limited regulation for ride-sharing innovations, including Uber (www.uber.com).

I, for one, would like to see more support for New Zealand-based entrepreneurs to provide the opportunities for us to break free of the current model of transport, and find something that works better for us all.

• Debbie Hopkins is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Otago Centre for Sustainability. Each week in this column, one of a panel of writers addresses issues of sustainability.

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