These are exciting and challenging times in transportation, with perhaps more changes in the next 10 years than in the previous 60, or even the previous 100. These changes include autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, intelligent infrastructure, intelligent transportation systems, new sensors, new materials including from nanotechnology, new construction methodologies and designs via virtual reality, increasing use of big data, increasing use of artificial intelligence, increasing use of robotics etc.—our homes, offices, transportation and increasingly everything else will be connected as the “Internet of things”. These changes have already begun.

In the near-term the biggest issue facing transportation is a stable and reliable replacement for the fuel tax. In the long-term, mobility is the imperative, not infrastructure, vehicles or digital technology alone.

The two events that are driving this are rapidly evolving digital technology and increased demand for collaboration. It is about convenience, quality and affordability, using transportation to improve lives. Thus, we are at a watershed moment in time and this requires we change the way we think and act to build one seamless “transportation ecosystem” that will save lives, save costs, reduce congestion, reduce pollution and mitigate climate change, create jobs, grow the economy and increase customer service and satisfaction. However, we are stuck because connections (relationships, trust, roles, responsibilities, collaboration/partnerships and alignment) across relevant players are lacking.

So, how can we do this? We must:

  1. Develop a new public-private partnership model where government creates the vision, rules, and manages the transportation system while allowing private sector innovation to flourish and be brought to scale.
  2. Develop connections between relevant partners, be an open door to partnerships and find common, shared purpose in meeting the needs of people. This in itself may require a new business model since outcomes will be generated at the margins of these connections, and less organically in the traditional public and private sector sense. Moreover, these partnerships must be aligned quickly in a defensible market for the private sector to bring these to scale. This coalition of traditional and non-traditional partnerships may include IBM, vehicle manufacturers (GM, Ford, etc), Google, Uber, Lyft, Verizon, Apple, Volpe National Transportation Center, RideScout, Open Car Alliance, Oregon’s VMT, US and state dots, public transportation, railroads, trucking companies, architects and engineer companies, construction companies, logistics companies, airlines, water-born transportation, cyclists, pedestrians, emergency responders, and others.

The world is changing and we must change with it, including in the public, private and academia arenas. The latter producing graduates that will be employed by the public and private sectors and drive future changes.

“The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.”

—Anthony Fox, US Secretary of Transportation