The movement of people and goods from place to place has been an inherent part of our lives throughout history. Transportation hubs have influenced the rise and fall of great cities and nations. From arterial roads built for horses and carriages emanating from the core of the Roman Empire, to ships and the waterways that powered Britain’s Industrial Revolution, to the rise of the personal vehicle and the creation of FDR’s Interstate Highway System, the key to economic influence has long resided with those who control movement across land, air, and sea.
What will power the next major shift in transportation? Will it be autonomous robots, delivery drones, electric helicopters, or sidewalk robots? How do we rethink mobility to redesign the way we live in our future cities in a way that is affordable, equitable, and accessible while also being delightful and convenient? And what does smart transportation really mean?
The Economist recently reported that transportation patterns have shifted for good post-COVID, moving away from a hub and spoke system to a spiderweb pattern with fewer, shorter journeys. Now that people travel less predictably, there is a stronger case for mobility-as-a-service and on-demand buses and shared vans. We are at an age where sensors are cheap, high-speed networks are robust, data is plentiful, and machine-learning algorithms and dashboards allow us to recognize patterns and manage movement effectively.
Smart transportation systems focus on the movement of people and goods utilizing new and innovative modes and the physical and digital infrastructure that power these systems. When thinking through smart transportation areas, it is oftentimes important to understand the outcomes these technologies will affect, rather than the pure capabilities of the technologies themselves. A self-driving car offers more productive hours in the day and safer roads, if implemented correctly. A decarbonized global trucking network can reduce greenhouses gases by more than 20%. Autonomous transport of goods can improve supply chains and resiliency. A high-speed magnetically levitating train allows one to work in one city while being able to return home to family at night in another. Shared mobility systems offer the potential to better utilize existing infrastructure assets.
The 2023 Edison Awards Smart Transportation categories welcomes submissions by companies working on these innovative products and services that enable the advent of the future of transportation.