28/08/2019 Tashi Van Der Waerden

The Road Less Travelled

“Does the fastest route truly deliver the optimal journey? Our obsession with efficient travel has removed the romance of journey making.“

Come with us to the future as we imagine travel app ‘Forked Road’ that wants us to stop, and consider the road less travelled.

The evolution of our transport network has both stimulated and satisfied our fixation with speed. We can zip line from Edinburgh to London in 30 minutes by bullet train and outsmart long-weekend traffic jams thanks to satellite navigation and real time data. But while this has saved us time, it has cost us adventure; our journeys becoming streamlined and homogenous. 

Forked Road offers to solve this tension. It delights travellers by enriching their journeys while providing brands with a platform for meaningful consumer engagement on the road. 

The concept for the app was born at the Goodwood Revival (vintage motor race meeting) as founders Kat and Mark O’Flaherty reminisced about the golden era of motor travel. In Kat’s words “When a Sunday drive was the height of sophistication and entertainment. People would set off without a destination in mind, opening themselves to the joys of chance discoveries.” 

Think of Forked Road as a high tech version of the Michelin guide (where 1 star is awarded for locations worth a stop, 2 for a detour and 3 a  destination). It designs optimised routes that balance efficient commuting with entertainment and education. The app uses machine learning to build up a picture of your personal interests and tailors each trip with increasing relevance. You can enrich the weekend drive to your parent’s house by stopping at a hidden surfing spot or joining a local Meetup group to forage wild mushrooms. 

The app is also an ally to our growing electric fleet. Forked Road connects drivers with host households so they can recharge their car while sharing a cup of tea and conversation with a local. Big box petrol stations are now being replaced by this decentralised network of individual homes that offer a far more personal encounter than filling up the tank at the side of the highway and snacking on generic crisps and chocolate that are the same from Inverness to St Ives. 

Mark exclaims, “The best is yet to come! As cars become increasingly automatic drivers are becoming passenger, opening up marvellous new possibilities. We are busy making plans for next May when UK highways become autonomous driving zones. Instead of passengers sitting there captive, either bored or eyes fixed to their phone completely oblivious to their surrounds, people can now make use of this idle time.”

Lydia Hrustic from DK Insights sees the untapped potential, “this is a primed audience; people who are craving stimulation and interaction. Businesses now have a chance to connect with people in transit like never before.” In the past brands were literally sitting on the sidelines, advertising through generic highway billboards and distributing through ubiquitous petrol stations that held no sense of place. Today, brands can become an integrated and valued part of the journey. And the opportunities are open to organisations small and large. Low cost and scalable digital interactions cost a fraction of traditionally expensive, limited and static billboards. For example, the BBC will accompany you down Stane Street (the 56 mile Roman Road connecting London and Chichester), offering an immersive history lesson on local life during Roman rule using augmented reality on the windshield. By seamlessly weaving brand encounters into daily life, at the most relevant moment, companies are connecting with people on a deeper level. 

Demonstrating the flexibility of the app, Forked Road has partnered with London Coffee Collective to encourage people to walk to work everyday in September (coinciding with Britain’s obesity action month). The app will map a unique route each day that includes an independent coffee shop and point of interest (hidden vantage point, boot camp class or breakfast seminar). The daily dose of urban discovery breaks the groundhog day bind and achieves commercial and social outcomes. Forked Road is already being credited with stimulating a renaissance of local business and many advocates believe it has the power to help reknit our strained national fabric: strengthening our sense of community from the grassroots.

Forked Road has achieved what many sought to do before – a truly connected journey. The application brings together people, retail, services and brands to share resources, spark new relationships and facilitate discovery. Instead of regarding travel time as something to cure, Forked Road turns it into an anticipated delight, recruiting our senses and plugging us back into the present. 

What is the opportunity for travel and transport brands? Key considerations: 

  • Understand the passenger mentality and how to entertain and educate during idle moments in transit. 
  • Consider your brand’s role within the environment you operate. How can you add value to landscapes and landmarks, making them as exciting and emotive as the final destination? 
  • How can technology be used to bring consumer surroundings to life in tangible, visceral ways? 

Related articles