I remember driving to Canada and back with only my U.S. driver’s license as ID. It was super handy — it meant that I could go to Canada on a whim, which as an under-age college student in Michigan was often the best antidote to a depressingly sober weekend night. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to travel without paperwork and a bunch of different cards and passes? Thanks to a little inspiration from the sci-fi film The Fifth Element, the MultiPass may become a reality.
The pass is more than just identification — it could be used for transportation (even flights, as it has a barcode), which would mean that people could ditch their rail passes and Oyster cards (London’s top-up style metrocard). Better still, the Multipass would eliminate the annoying process of trying to find cheap fares — because it’s an e-cloud system, it could automatically lock in the cheapest rates. The card could even be used to pay for parking and snacks.
Almost every aspect of the pass, including its name, is inspired by The Fifth Element. In that movie, the pass functions as an all-purpose ID that, among other things, allows Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo to board a spacecraft. Maybe someday the real-life version will do that, but for now it would be an e-cloud-based ticket/travelcard combo with an “e-ink” screen (the kind of screen that found on e-readers and sometimes smartphones). The idea is to simplify life by reducing the number of cards and passes people have to carry, and to reduce inconvenience associated with standing in line to top-up a transportation pass.
Some are worried that the Transport for London all-in-one card that will be available in early 2014 will hinder this project. But that program may end up being helpful for MultiPass — they can learn from its shortcomings and capitalize and expand upon its successes. The best price mechanism of MultiPass would be one aspect that would set it apart from this other initiative.
Next year, the pass will be piloted in London and Glasgow. MultiPass will recruit a few hundred test users, many of whom are seasonal pass holders, to see if and how people respond to the program. I think it sounds pretty cool, and if the system is navigable for tourists, or if there’s a short-term version of the program tailored to make visitors’ lives easier, I think it has real potential. After all, the only thing this card can’t do is get you a date. Yet.