IOT: Powering the digital economy

London is testing on-demand public transport services that you can book with an app

Key Points
  • A range of technological innovations have been introduced to London's public transport system over the last few years. 
  • Around the world, ride-hailing services have become increasingly popular methods of getting around. 
@RATP Dev | Jon Mikol

London's transport authority has launched a trial of an "on-demand" minibus service in the borough of Ealing, in the west of the city.

Called "Slide Ealing", travelers can book their journeys with an app or through a phone call. The bus does not have a designated route but will rather pick people up from "flexible stops."

In an announcement Wednesday, Transport for London said the service would operate between 6:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m., costing £3.50 ($4.50) for a single trip. It will run seven days a week for a period of 12 months. Customers can pay in advance for their journey through the app or over the phone using a Visa or Mastercard.

According to the Slide Ealing website, the technology that underpins the scheme enables "passengers traveling in a similar direction to be picked up and dropped off along the way."

Transport for London, bus firm RATP and MOIA, a German technology business, are providing the service. MOIA is part of the Volkswagen Group.

The trial in Ealing is the second in the capital. Another service in Sutton, in the south of the city, was launched in May.

The last few years have seen a range of technological innovations introduced to London's public transport system, which serves millions of people every day.

People can now pay for journeys on the city's tube, bus and overground rail network using contactless cards or their smartphone, although contactless payment is not available on board the minibus pilots. Many bus stops across the city contain live travel information which counts down arrival times.

Around the world, ride-hailing services such as Didi Chuxing, Uber, Lyft and Ola have become increasingly popular methods of getting around, enabling people to book cab journeys using their smartphone.

When it comes to on-demand minibus transport, London is not the only place in the U.K. operating such a scheme. Arriva, for example, operates a similar app-based service called ArrivaClick in the cities of Liverpool and Leicester.