Technological Innovation and Transportation
Without innovations in technology across a broad range to industries, we would not be where we are today when it comes to transportation. When I consider how rapidly our profession and the modes we utilize and operate have advanced, I think about my own great grandmother, who was born in 1888 when the primary mode of personal transportation was the horse and buggy. She died in 1985 at the age of 97, having witnessed the evolution of the personal automobile, bullet trains, supersonic
airplanes, and humans walking on the moon.
As we in the profession know, transportation is a foundational component of society that contributes to the safety, security, and prosperity of global economies. The action of getting into a vehicle to drive to work on smooth roads with minor interruptions while arriving safely is undertaken millions of times each day without a second thought by most drivers. Moreover, millions of journeys by bus, train, micromobility, bicycle, or walking occur every day with travelers forgoing the hassle of driving themselves. In our connected society, commuters likely book trips and reserve mobility options via technology, and conduct business or handle personal matters via wireless devices along their journey. Consumers shop for products without considering how they got from the field, plant, or factory to the shelf in the store, or how the various components originally arrived at the factory. With the click of a button, their online purchases arrive at their doors in only a few days, or even hours.
Transportation is the backbone of everyday conveniences, and technology makes so much of it possible. Any congestion or breakdown on the network creates a ripple effect that
lasts long after the interruption is over. Today’s reality is that congestion is growing, and unplanned events are having a significant impact on the transportation system—many of them catastrophic. Recent events, including the pandemic and natural disasters, have brought into sharp focus the critical role transportation plays in the supply chain and the need to ensure our network is resilient. To the traveler, the consumer, and the citizen, we are mostly invisible, yet the work we do is essential to their everyday lives. We must harness technology in every way possible to make our network safer, cleaner, and more efficient.
Smart communities represent an opportunity to integrate transportation with the overall community via technology to enhance livability and sustainability. For example, the integration of transportation data with non-transportation data can open pathways to new partnerships that can enhance accessibility to services such as education, employment, and healthcare. These partnerships can help meet the mobility needs of underserved populations, while advanced technologies offer insight into regional trends and mobility-related needs in the community that might be currently unknown. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what the future holds for livable communities, both large and small. We need to open ourselves to a vast array of possibilities for the transportation network to play a role in shaping the communities of the future and how we move about the globe. In my grandmother’s lifetime, she witnessed an amazing transformation in how we travel. I daresay we cannot imagine what the future will look like for transportation and its safety, mobility, and resiliency potential. Anything is possible! As always, reach out to me on the ITE e-Community or on Twitter: @BeverlyKuhn.