Technology will change not only the cars we drive but the way both people and parcels are moved around the world and the environments in which that transportation takes place. Today’s Social Media Week panel on the Future of Transportation included a representative from a big car company, a start up and an academic.
Erica Klampfl, whose title at Ford is Future Mobility Manager, talked about some the trends that Ford looks at that will influence their products in the future. These include increased urbanization, the growth of the middle class, air quality issues and changing customer attitudes, such as putting off life events like getting married and buying a house at a later age.
Reilly Brennan, a professor at Stanford, talked about the aging of the population. He noted that someone born in 2015 has a 50/50 change of living to be 100. That suggests a growing need for mobility solutions that do not involve driving a car.
One of the most likely and most interesting changes that all in the panel envision coming to cars involves software. Brennan pointed to the phone as a model where regular software updates refresh your phone. Cars, on the other hand, tend to get worse with age. Can a software refresh be applied to cars that makes them seem renewed if not new? These panelists think so. They also suggested that software updates could in the future take care of a lot of recalls.
Cars have already and will continue to get smarter. Another panelist, Jamyn Edis, is the CEO of Dash, a company that makes a device that can be installed under the dashboard and connected to a smart phone. That device can do things like tell you why your check engine light is on, what needs to be done and how much it will cost to make the repair. The Dash device is also an example of the enormous amount of data and intelligence that can be accumulated by a smart car, data about not just vehicles but drivers, traffic, routes and roads.
The self driving car is something that has created a lot of interest, but Edis cautioned that it is not imminent. He noted that Google, which is probably the leader in this area, has acknowledged that we are a good 10 to 20 years away from having mainstream self-driving vehicles. There is however a continuous development of features, like aids to parking or automatic breaking, that are moving vehicles incrementally in that direction.
Technology offers the opportunity to not only make vehicles smarter but to make cities smarter about how they move people around. Colin Nagy, executive director of the Barbarian Group, who moderated the discussion, raised the example of light posts that can help you find a parking spot or navigate around traffic.
While transportation planners look at single-occupancy vehicles as a wasted resource, in the future we may feel the same way about single purpose vehicles. Brennan said “a vehicle on the road should have a number of uses.” And one of those uses is moving parcels. They speculated on whether Uber will get into shipping.
You can access an archived feed of this session here.