What Innovation Should Shape Transportation in the Future?

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Jianguo Zhong Lu looking west at Sinan Lu, Shanghai

Traffic of all kinds in Shanghai (Photograph by bricoleurbanism/Flickr)

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PUBLISHED MAY 13, 2014

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omorrow's drivers will be quite different from the motorists who are crowding highways today.

Young people are driving less than teens did a generation ago, and they are delaying  getting drivers' licenses, a number of recent studies have confirmed. (See related story: "Four Theories Why Teens Drive Less Today.")

Researchers have different theories for reasons behind this generational shift: Is it a preference for screen time instead of time behind the wheel? Have the costs of vehicles and fuel soared too high for teen budgets? Are they less into ownership and more into sharing?

Do young people care more about the environment than their forebears? Or do they just want to avoid being caught in traffic jams? Are they waiting for technology breakthroughs that would completely revolutionize transportation?

Whatever the explanation, new attitudes on mobility already are beginning to curb the trajectory of energy use in the industrialized world. If nations better understood what is driving the change, perhaps they could do more to influence trends in developing nations where transportation energy use is continuing to grow rapidly. (See related: "Driving the Limit: Wealthy Nations Maxed Out on Travel?")

For today's young people, what do you think is the most important innovation in mobility for shaping transportation of the future? Rate the ideas below and share your thoughts in the comments. Also see how students at Shell Eco-marathon in Houston answered the question recently.

  • OPTION 1

    More fuel-efficient vehicles

    Car manufacturers are already working on a number of ways to boost the mileage of even regular combustion engines, even as electric cars gain a foothold. The average fuel economy for a new car in the United States, for example, has more than doubled since the 1970s, and will continue to increase.

  • OPTION 2

    Better and more widespread mass transit

    Roadway occupancy levels could increase sixfold in some countries, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).  Cities around the world are working on solutions that include bus rapid transit, rail, and cable cars.

  • OPTION 3

    Car sharing and ride sharing

    As the popularity of car sharing services and ride-sharing networks increases, the prospect of owning and maintaining a personal vehicle may become less appealing.

  • OPTION 4

    Driverless cars and other high-tech mobility solutions

    The future might hold a transport innovation that does not yet seem practical: driverless cars that operate more efficiently that those driven by humans, for example, or Tesla founder Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept.

  • OPTION 5

    Bicycles and electric bikes

    As cities adopt bike-sharing programs and urban planners develop spaces with cyclists in mind, this mode of transport could prove to be more popular than battling gridlock and searching for parking spaces in the world's major urban areas.

19 comments
Gary Vesperman
Gary Vesperman

I have prepared a "Gallery of Clean Energy Inventions" exhibit. See https://app.box.com/CLEANENERGYEXHIBIT. One of its seven exhibits comprises of 16 "Advanced Self-Powered Electric Vehicles" innovations. I think the ultimate winner of the vehicle development horserace will be electric vehicles that carry on-board fuel-less battery chargers.

James Hancock
James Hancock

Transport is certainly a topic in which the "simple" solution is not evident. The entry that won the Teen Tech Innovation for Transport prize focused on allowing the driver to personalize a car (as one would personalize a phone) and have it detect mood, while providing a safer driving experience (see source). This, and the lack of other transport innovation entries which directly tackled transit problems, gives the impression that schoolchildren (like myself) are running out of ideas for the genre.


But not yet. I have tried my best to meet the problem head on, with a relevant solution. An app which rewards the user for using the government's methods of mass transport. By using RFID technology (As seen in Apple Pay) we can offer an incentive* to get people out of cars blocking roads, and into buses or onto bikes provided by the city. Another reason to get this app is that it would be able to give car-free directions to your destination and advise the user on areas to avoid because of current heavy traffic. This is not necessarily a good solution, and I need criticism before I develop the idea.


*for example, a future discount on travel or 20 pence off this ride. Would need to be agreed upon by officials.


Source:

http://www.teentechevent.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Media-Release-Royal-Prize-Giving-TeenTech-Awards-1st-July-2013.pdf


Also, check out this Tube route planner app.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/tube-map-london-underground/id320969612?mt=8

tim jenkins
tim jenkins

Mass transit is the way to go. Too many people and too much traffic in urban areas for auto changes to be a significant contribution to decreased carbon footprint.

Raghavan Parthasarathy
Raghavan Parthasarathy

Here, one can see that fuel efficiency is given value but the problem is per unit mass of fuel, the same emissions result in terms of CO2. Obviously we cant be burning carbon or hydro carbons for long. Already we are seeing the effects and EVs are making much inroads, because people are going green. Perhaps one choice in the poll should have clearly mentioned that.!

James Berry
James Berry

I'm personally excited about electric propulsion.  I've been driving a Volt for almost two years getting over 80% of my miles on electric.  And, I subscribe to wind energy from my local utility so it is clean.  Finally,  it is a really nice ride.  Smooth, quiet and responsive.

Hamilton Steimer
Hamilton Steimer

I was disappointed in Obama for not proposing serious transport reform legislation promoting the expansion of our railway system. I think California is building a bullet train system in between San Diego or San Francisco, but no other areas are expanding their rail systems as far as I know of. I believe the massive rail system throughout Europe is one of their greatest accomplishments.


Tom Mengel
Tom Mengel

As far as personal car ownership the whole concept of "hitting the road" from your own little home/castle and the road-tripping subculture that made that a romantic "need" in the past is now becoming a rapidly dying concept.  To many Millennials the car companies hopefully woo to become the next generation market for their products have seen their parents suburban promised land of large homes with green expanses that comes at high (and morally questionable) costs that includes having a car, and have come to the correct conclusion it's not a viable or particularly effective lifestyle for their generation.  And the real irony is many older seniors like myself have also come to realize the exact same thing, especially after finding themselves caught in a retirement of diminishing returns and realizing how much they paid out for those hard to keep up green suburban tracks over the years including both car upkeep and huge tax outlays and wish they had banked some of that cash into their into their now shrinking retirement accounts.  Put all that together and a more centralized and shared technology driven transport system offered by a newly defined urban lifestyles will make simple and cheap on demand mass transport the eventual privet owned car killer in the future.

Thomas Frazier
Thomas Frazier

Localization of services and  production of goods such as food will greatly reduce the need for any form of transportation. Working from home on a computer is another great transportation reducer. Let solar energy production be the limiting factor in what energy we can consume and therefore prioritize what is really important to us as individuals and for humanity. I saw a few things when I was in Greece that really make a huge difference in our impact on our environment. Solar lighted bus stops, billboards and other advertising lighting going off at 11:00pm or so when very few people are left to see them, solar hot water on almost every building for bathing and heating, un-painted pencils, containers for toilet paper rather than needing more water for flushing and bigger waste water treatment plants to process it.

Xu Qi
Xu Qi

         See this picture  from Shanghai, I have to say, most people hope that drove the car , because fast and comfortable.In China, the picture is not crowded.


Robin Willoughby
Robin Willoughby

Because as speed increases so does mass and with more mass = more energy needed to reach the speed of light. This means a particle with mass can never truly reached the speed of light using conventional "thrusting" methods such as engines or magnetic propulsion.

jahangir ali
jahangir ali

Hi! I am Jahangir Ali from Pakistan. I have just passed my matriculation. I want to ask that why can't we make a machine which can travel with the speed of light?According to mass energy equation E=mc², 9x10(raise to power 18) J of energy is required to move something with the double speed of light. So to move something with the speed of light we need 3x10(raise to power 8) J of energy and 67x10(raise to power 10) J of energy is obtained by by the fission reaction of Uranium-235. So why can't we make a machine which can move with the speed of light. It can help us to explore the universe.


Oscar Ip
Oscar Ip

In many aged cities(Hong Kong for instance), there are few bike tracks, and it is illegal to ride bikes on the road. They also don't have the space and time to redevelop the roads for bike tracks. So although choice 5 is a good idea, it might only work in country areas and new developing towns.

Vincenzo Lo Scalzo
Vincenzo Lo Scalzo

In Europe the transformation of traffic to improve rational moods is ongoing with interest to railways, auto, metropolitan electric cars + sharing (cars and bikes). We hope that the ongoing recession of economies will not weaken the ongoing trend of progress.

daed lanth
daed lanth

In the US we need mass transit for passengers & heavy loads. The rail system should be updated & expanded with electrified short haul services at conveniently located terminals nationally. The costs could be justified by increased efficiency from the use of modular container systems compatible with air, sea, & land transport vehicles. We could also reduce the transportation footprint over time which would reduce the burden of overall infrastructure maintenance. Fuel consumption would also plummet. We could turn square miles of concrete & asphalt back to green space in a few decades.

Ashfaq AHmed
Ashfaq AHmed

Energy efficient cars needs to be introduced along with increase in production of mini cars as demand for individual cars is increasing day by day instead of sharing cars etc. 

Roiikka-Ta P Globetrotter
Roiikka-Ta P Globetrotter

it should "look" however its supposed to look .. its kind of a backwards question . it will look how it does when it gets there i suppose . .

jahangir ali
jahangir ali

@Robin Willoughby Sir, but when the speed of a body increases (means it's velocity increases) and the rate of change of velocity is called acceleration. So when a body accelerates it's Weight increases not the Mass.

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