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Ahsan Haider

Ahsan Haider


Transport Planner

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Tell us about you, and your career journey?

I’ve always been fascinated with transport systems and how people move around cities. In high school I used to spend all day playing games like SimCity and designing intricate urban regions and multi-modal transport systems. When it came time to choose a career, I knew it had to be something to do with cities and transport. I decided to study civil engineering and architecture, a degree which would help me understand cities from both a technical and design oriented perspective. At university I quickly realised that the job of a traditional civil engineer, such as structural and geotechnical engineering, wasn’t for me but when I did transport engineering subjects I knew I had found the SimCity-like thinking about how to design great cities and regions – exactly the thing I had always craved! I ended up getting an internship in transport planning and eventually joined Arup as a graduate transport planner.

In my time at Arup I have helped deliver several projects looking at the future of cities, whether that be modelling future transport scenarios, advising the government and private developers on how to prepare for AVs and electric vehicles, or helping understand and design future proofed digital and physical infrastructure for key bus routes. In particular, I am interested in the intersection between technological innovation and transport systems – something traditional transport planners don’t always have the skills to understand. By the time I hope to retire, transport systems will be significantly more Shared, Personalised, Automated, Connected and Electric (SPACE) than they are currently, although this transition is already well under way. The decisions we make now will shape the future of transport and when I look back on my career one day I’d like to say that I played my part in helping to bring about this transition and create a better transport network.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 trends in your transport industry niche that everybody should look out for in the next 5 years?

  1. Beginning to see automated vehicles on the roads: In the next 5 years it is predicted that the first L3/L4 automated vehicles will become available for public purchase. This will be interesting in a number of ways: how will public perception of these technologies change, how will licencing and insurance industries react, will these vehicles be used in the same way cars are currently and will there be opportunities to start thinking about redesigning roads and cities enabled by this technology?
  2. The opportunity offered by sensors, real time data and artificial intelligence (AI): While these have already started to appear in the transport system, such as TfNSW’s AI-based smartphone use detection cameras, the coming years will continue to enable the usage of sensors and real time data in how we plan and design cities – this presents a huge opportunity to create a more efficient, inclusive and personalised transport system.
  3. The opportunity and threat presented by COVID-19: Around the world COVID has seen an increase in bicycle and active transport, we must make sure this trend continues even in the post-COVID world to help shape healthier and more sustainable transport systems. At the same time, we must make sure that trends such as the reduction in public transport, while understandable in the middle of a pandemic, do not become long term shifts, by doing everything we can to encourage people out of private cars and back on to shared and public transport systems.  

How does your company innovate?

Arup is at the cutting edge of understanding how changes in mobility and technology impact cities. This includes working with clients across the world to help them solve their existing issues and be better prepared for future disruption. It also includes investing the company’s own money into co-funded research projects to help gain a better understanding of the future – such as the work done by Arup’s Foresight team.

Why is encouraging innovation, new ideas, and applying new technology (particularly within the transport sector) important?

Transport enables great cities and places! Two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 and shaping great transport systems is one of the best investments that a city can make to increase its liveability and attractiveness. There’s no one size fits all approach to creating great transport systems, but cities that have leveraged the opportunities of innovation and technology to help solve problems have come out in front and this trend will continue and accelerate in the future. It is exciting to imagine how new technology may enable better transport systems in the coming decades – but we need to start preparing now to help shape this transition and make it something that helps to create a better experience for people.

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