I gave a presentation on Friday titled Burgeoning Fields of Transportation. The audience were students at University of South Florida (USF)’s transportation seminar, held every Friday at 11:00am. The purpose of the presentation was to give students a sense of urgency that their education is not done once they get their degree. I had some decent feedback, which I will describe below:
A lesson in business: don’t be Blockbuster!
I started off the presentation by asking the class if they knew what Blockbuster was. To my surprise, exactly 0 students knew what Blockbuster was. Zero! What?! Am I that old? This boggled my mind as even my brother (who is of college age) knows of Blockbuster.
Well, I proceeded on after being slightly embarrassed. I pointed out that this megalith of a company, a name-stay in the 90’s, descended fast because it failed to keep up with the times.
Transportation: it’s basically been the same
The next section of the presentation showed that three major aspects: roads, cars, and how we manage it all has basically stayed the same. There have not been drastic changes since their inception which would cause a major disruption. Roads have basically been the same thing: bricks, then concrete, then asphalt. Cars, have basically be four wheels, a steering column, and a few rows of seats. Traffic management has been signals with phases. Nothing has radically changed.
Transportation: where it is going
In my opinion, there are 3 main items that are shaping the future of transportation. These include:
Drones are currently being used in military purposes and limited hobby use. Drones could have an impact on how items are delivered, which would reduce the amount of vehicles on the road. Not only would this remove freight vehicles for delivery, but it would also reduce the amount of non-work trips we take each day. Imagine if you did not have to drive to the store to pick up your groceries. This could reduce the amount of trucks on the road, reducing pavement wear-and-tear.
Mohr’s Law has had a major factor on where automotive technology is today. Computing power is now allowed to be integrated into cars, which is fueling the connected and automated vehicle hooplah. This means that the mechanical components which vehicles have been based on are now replaced by rapid improving computer components.
Note: I just read an Economist article saying that Mohr’s Law is soon: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/04/economist-explains-17. This is also in part to the physical limitations as the spacing between transistors is reaching atomic level.
We all know the highway trust fund is insolvable. While this is not that bad of an issue as ASCE makes it seem (see future post), it does mean that contracting mechanisms and financial liability will be different than what we have previously seen. We will most likely be more accountable to the public (no “funny money” projections). Crowdfunding could be a viable source of revenue for certain pet projects (say, signal retiming?).
Where do we go from here: Constant learning
My point to all this is that learning can never given the sudden influx of technology. This industry has enjoyed being void of the fast-moving technology that has been part of most other industries (computers, photography, movie rentals). Therefore, it is important to understand that as technology changes, a successful individual will keep up. Other industries and business know this very well, and it is time for us in the transportation to get with the program.
Extra credit: good resource
Education is key, but it is important to understand why you are getting it. Joshua Sheats at Radical Personal Finance describes a way to get the most from your college experience. He details how it is important to know what your goal is, so that your education fits that goal. His podcast episode is located here:
So what do you think? Do you think there are other technologies that will impact transportation? Should we be less worried?