WIT Press

Developing A Transdisciplinary Approach To Improve Urban Traffic Congestion Based On Product Ecosystem Theory


Free (open access)





Page Range

723 - 733




1,036 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


T. Williams


Product Ecosystem Theory is an emerging theory that shows that disruptive “game changing” innovation is only possible when the entire ecosystem is considered. When environmental variables change faster than products or services can adapt, disruptive innovation is required to keep pace. This has many parallels with natural ecosystems where species that cannot keep up with changes to the environment will struggle or become extinct. In this case the environment is the city, the environmental pressures are pollution and congestion, the product is the car and the product ecosystem is comprised of roads, bridges, traffic lights, legislation, refuelling facilities, etc. Each one of these components is the responsibility of a different organisation and so any change that affects the whole ecosystem requires a transdisciplinary approach. As a simple example, cars that communicate wirelessly with traffic lights are only of value if wireless-enabled traffic lights exist and vice versa. Cars that drive themselves are technically possible but legislation in most places doesn’t allow their use. According to innovation theory, incremental innovation tends to chase ever diminishing returns and becomes increasingly unable to tackle the “big issues”. Eventually “game changing” disruptive innovation comes along and solves the “big issues” and/or provides new opportunities. Seen through this lens, the environmental pressures of urban traffic congestion and pollution are the “big issues”. It can be argued that the design of cars and the other components of the product ecosystem follow an incremental innovation approach. That is why the “big issues” remain unresolved. This paper explores the problems of pollution and congestion in urban environments from a product ecosystem perspective. From this a strategy will be proposed for a transdisciplinary approach to develop and implement solutions.


product ecosystems, transport, wicked problems, Design Thinking, congestion, USV, micro car