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Walter Spracklin on the great transport transition

The great transport transition is upon us – and it’s primed to revolutionize human mobility.

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By Walter Spracklin
Published November 1, 2022 | 2 min watch
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Key Points

  • The transportation industry is in the midst of a technological transformation, aimed at adapting to today’s increasingly urgent sustainability requirements.
  • From electrification to battery-powered vehicles, the struggle between innovation and resources will prove significant.
  • Automation and AI will shape the future of transport, impacting safety, efficiency, individual productivity and targeted marketing.
  • Supply chains and delivery methods will continue to evolve as the infrastructure of the future becomes intelligent, connected and data-driven.

Combine 2050’s net-zero targets with today’s globalization, demands for next day delivery, and the unstoppable growth of data-driven marketing – and transport has been pushed towards the cusp of a momentous revolution.

But what does the future of transport and mobility look like?

The growing climate crisis may act as the key driver of change across all sectors, as the need for sustainable energy solutions to fuel transport becomes unavoidable. Here, the industry will face some challenges – as demand for resources could curb innovation. 

Electrification should lead the way as electric cars, planes and trains all vie for ubiquity. Some of these advancements are likely not far away. Widespread investment in infrastructure will be necessary to make electrification a reality – with the creation of vehicle charging points and the efficient manufacturing of green electricity becoming vital to accelerate the energy transition and ensure energy security for nation states domestically.

When it comes to thinking longer term, the transport transition could become futuristic beyond our expectations. Imagine air taxis or long-distance transportation hyperloops, or even a return to traveling by airship. The opportunities and possibilities are vast as the industry navigates this moment of accelerated change.

Embracing automation

Looking beyond energy, automated vehicles have the potential to radically affect the way we live. Data is set to play a major role, as we imagine a future where drivers could turn their AI automobiles into data-monetization vehicles. Businesses may use automated vehicles for dedicated customer acquisition and targeted advertising.

For the individual, automation could facilitate greater productivity, entertainment time, and personalization. Software-enabled vehicles are expected to be smarter, more efficient and provide consumers with a tailored, branded travel experience. Sensor technology can anticipate congestion and detect obstacles, while intelligent infrastructure should become connected.

Crucially, automated vehicles could also drastically improve safety. With 94% of major crash injuries arising from human error, opportunities to improve transport safety may lie firmly at the feet of automation.

Precisely how the automation space will develop remains unclear. Achieving societal acceptance and addressing initial safety issues remains a challenge, and union interests will also prove an important consideration to investors, regulators and product developers.

Meeting delivery demands

As supply chain disruption is already rife, and industries are increasingly transitioning from just-in-time to just-in-case inventory models, the future of transport will be increasingly influenced by the changing demands of international manufacturing supply chains and consumer delivery.

Delivery drones have the potential to take over the skies, reducing the need for cars on the road. Meanwhile, as businesses embrace just-in-case models, the need for precisely timed product or part deliveries decreases. The result may be a rise in the use of railways, which provide a more energy-efficient solution to freight transportation than road vehicles. And opportunities in the development of rail travel and infrastructure should increase as the sector continues to grow internationally.

Transportation requires enormous investment to transition into the future, a global endeavor which is already

well underway. That’s why our RBC Imagine research program is so important – it provides forward-thinking insights on the future of transport, offering a cross-sector exploration of the technological advancements set to reshape global mobility.

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