Dr. Peter Diamandis is a pretty smart guy (master’s in aerospace engineering from MIT and M.D. from Harvard Medical School) in addition to being pretty gutsy (I love his story of how he started the X-Prize Foundation without having the prize money secured). Needless to say, I’m a fan of his.
So when his post the Future of Transportation hit my inbox, I read it closely and have been thinking through the implications ever since. You should read it.
His thesis is that Autonomous Vehicles, Telepresence Robots/Virtual Worlds, Hyperloop, and Point-to-Point Aerial Transport will radically change where we live, work and interact.
His thoughts around autonomous vehicles are sound. Not sure if we’re going to see the Hyperloop train system, but it would be pretty awesome to commute from Minneapolis to Chicago in less than half an hour. The two things I hadn’t thought much about are Telepresence Robots/Virtual Worlds or Point-to-Point Aerial Transport.
Diamandis uses Beam robots to virtually login to meetings between Los Angeles, Mountain View, San Diego, and Seattle. Sometimes on the same day. It’s kind of like using a video conference, but I imagine it’s actually a much better experience. It would be a strange world, but I wonder what it would be like to have my Avatar at a conference instead of going in person? I’d go to more conferences if I didn’t have to deal with the hassles of travel and time away from my family.
Point-to-Point Aerial Transport are basically drones that can carry humans. I didn’t know these existed, but apparently there are already working prototypes. This is the first step towards having flying cars that the Jetsons promised us 50 years ago. Or maybe Iron Man.
No one can predict how successful all of the technologies are going to be, but as a transportation professional these concepts reinforce two things I’ve been saying for a while:
- Vehicle Miles Traveled will not continue to grow at 2% the way they did from 1985 to 2009. Although vehicle miles traveled are up over the last year, I don’t think this trend will continue. We need to stop trendlining past traffic growth twenty years into the future.
- I’m not encouraging my nine year old son Mitch to become a traffic engineer because I don’t think there will be many traffic engineers with a civil engineering degree working in 30 years.
What do you think the future holds for traffic engineers? Leave a comment below.