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.

40 comments
Mrt Khan
Mrt Khan

I think to save environment and pollution we must keep using bicycles for small rides. And electromagnetic vehicles for long routes

http://www.brochips.net

Trey Miller
Trey Miller

Though not an option, I feel that a large reason that teens are delaying getting licenses and driving is because the cost to drive a car is becoming too high. To put in perspective, when all the costs are added up, it costs nearly $4235.87 per year to drive (drivelessconnect.com). With costs adding up to a high number such as that, it is ridiculous to not drive alone, so the option I would choose would be Option 3, Car sharing and Ride sharing, as the best fit option.

Nick Sheaffer
Nick Sheaffer

The mass transit option seems like the best option in my point of view. If mass transit was updated to green methods it is the best way to reduce traffic but increase the number of people being able to move throughout a city. Many cities have started to update or build mass transit systems so it is also the quickest and most realistic solution.

Tim Coppler
Tim Coppler

The driverless car and hyperloop options look the most appealing to me. With the hyperloop we decrease travel time while also requiring electric energy that we can gain from solar and wind power. We could have these hyperloop grids that connect with each other with alternative energy production sites throughout. With these systems being autonomous we also gain the fact that there will be no wrecks with minimal need to be maintained.

Molly Owens
Molly Owens

I believe more fuel efficient cars should shape the future. The people who are going to buy new cars are mainly young melenialls who enjoy traveling. And they are going to be looking for cars that can go far on the same tank of gas.

Emma Smith
Emma Smith

I feel the innovation that should shape transportation of the future is the use omore fuel-efficient vehicles. Although this movement was not extremely successful in terms of people converting to electric cars from fossil fuel cars, the electric car is by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly method of transportation. I chose this option because the use of electricity to power vehicles would also allow for National Geographic's other options to be used! Electricity could be used to power mass transit systems, driverless cars, electric bikes, and drivers could still carpool in electric cars. Many argue that the reason the electric car failed was because it could not travel long distances, but the 2017 Bolt EV has a range upwards of 200 miles (http://www.chevrolet.com/bolt-ev-electric-vehicle.html).

Ashley Cano
Ashley Cano

I believe the more fuel efficient vehicles will be the innovation that could shape the future of transportation.  Vehicles were sacred to Americans in the 1960's when they believed them to be a sign of freedom, individuality, and a way to meet up with friends.  In more recent years, however, the view of cars that young Americans take has shifted to mainly importance (The Changing Story of Teens and Cars).  Teens as well as adults see cars as a way to function in every day life.  For example, I use my car every single day.  I need a way to get to school as well as work.  I see my car as vital because without it, I would not be able to reach my destinations each day.  So I believe that if a more fuel efficient car was introduced to Americans it would be something that the public would take interest in.  Sometimes it is hard for a consumer to adjust to such drastic changes in their products, so with a more fuel efficient car the only thing that would be changing would be how far a car can get before they need to refuel.  Recently, there was even an agreement between the Obama administration and the automakers that all new cars have an average fuel economy of 55mpg by 2025 (Framing the Future of Fuel Efficient Cars).  If the government is enacting an agreement where all cars must be more fuel efficient by 2025, more fuel efficient vehicles must be the answer to a brighter future in transportation

Tommy Martin
Tommy Martin

I think that more fuel efficient cars will be the next thing. Cars won't go away completely, so car companies are coming up with more ways to make cars more efficient.  Cars have always been asn easy way to commute with little or no hassle compared to other types of transportation like bikes.  The biggest problem with cars today are the costs of gasoline. But, the average fuel efficiency for cars today has doubled since the 1970's. The most fuel efficient car today is the BMW i3 with an overall MPG of 135 (Consumer Reports).  So , future will only bring even more fuel-effiecinet cars as well as a possiblilty of alternative fuels.

Amanda Dierkes
Amanda Dierkes

I believe the development of more fuel-efficient cars will be most influential on future transportation because it will allow individuals to reduce their ecological footprint without changing their regular routine.  As shown in the video, Who Killed the Electric Car?, many people are not comfortable driving something they are not familiar with.  If they can simply make a substitution, like an old car for a newer fuel-efficient one, they would be much more likely to comply. This option is the simplest solution because public transportation is only really logical in large cities, and an increasing number of individuals are regularly driving longer distances for work. 

Corrie Knapp
Corrie Knapp

I think better fuel-efficient vehicles are going to shape the future the most.  As we have seen in trends with the electric cars, people are not willing to change their habits and every day lives easily.  They did not feeling comfortable driving a car they did not know much about (Who Killed the Electric Car video).  Humans are accustomed to the comfortable, predictable use of gas vehicles.  With the improvement of gas mileage, fuel efficiency, and emissions, people can continue using the transportation they have now.  

Betsy Young
Betsy Young

I think that mass transit systems would and should be the next big thing.  As more and more people own cars in America and around the world, traffic jams get worse and worse.  Acording to USA Today, China is now experiencing 50 lane traffic jams which could take DAYS for the cars to continue moving and the traffic to clear.  Using more fuel efficient busses or trains would help the masses of people to get to the places they need to go without crowding the highways.  These fuel effiecent vehicles also would help people to save money, which in today's economy  is not a problem.  The public transit sometimes costs a minimal fee for using it, or in some areas the use of the systems could be free.  This is why I think that mass transit will catch on, people will save both the environmment and the money in their pockets. 

Logan Dible
Logan Dible

Personally, I think the cost of an auto mobile , driving school, insurance, and gas is the reason more teenagers are not driving or waiting to get their license. Many students Are car sharing and ride sharing. Even if it's just to school, or when's group of friends goes out of town, almost every student will car pool. The average teen will spend $2950 between their first car($2500) and paying for driving school ($450) and not to mention the price of gas which averages at around $2.20 per gallon (Cost Helper) .

Mark Webster
Mark Webster

What we need is a better distribution system for energy that draws from the environmentally modern solar and wind alternatives when the conditions are right, but is supported by more efficient and responsible fossil fuels energy extraction when the sun goes down and the winds are not sufficient.  If these seemingly opposing avenues would work together on a power distribution plan that focuses on each others' best attributes we would probably make this global energy initiative more responsive to social needs. 

Tim Dedrick Dedrick
Tim Dedrick Dedrick

Light-weighting all types of ground transportation vehicles (carbon fibre & etc) will lead to tremendous efficiencies, produce radical powerplant and transmission designs, and permit viable electric and PV vehicles to be economically produced for the masses.

John Swallow
John Swallow

Surprisingly, Airplanes More Energy Efficient Than Cars

In fact, unless you drive a car that gets 33.8 gallons per mile (or carry more than one passenger), new airplanes coming off the assembly line are more fuel-efficient, according to researchers at University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

"Fuel economy must improve 57% (from the current average of 23.8 mpg) in order for light-duty vehicles to match the current energy efficiency of  commercial airline flights," notes Michael Sivak at University of Michigan. The option is for cars to carry at least 2.3 people, up from 1.38 today. That could happen given the trend toward car-sharing and ride-sharing.

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/25497

John Swallow
John Swallow

I was recently in Los Angeles and got to experience how not to design transport systems.Years ago the view was that the automobile was consideredthe best means of transportation.No thought was given at the time to developing a mass transportation system and all resources were put into freeways systems that have turned into, at times, 16 lane parking lots.I used the Metro system while in LA and once more the car is a problem there, the same as with the DC Metro system, in that people want to drive to the closest station but need to park their car and that has turned into a real problem; therefore, a better more reliable bus system is require to help solve this problem.In LA it appears that people are still reluctant to make the switch to mass transport because it is under utilized, in my opinion.


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

@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.

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 T.
Roiikka T.

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 . .

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