What is the future of transportation?

John Moavenzadeh
Head of Mobility Industries and System Initiative, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum LLC
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A client in Beijing has just called asking you to present your latest products in person to their top management tomorrow. A driverless e-car picks you up from home and takes you to the airport. There is no congestion as traffic flows are automated.

During the ride, you book your trip via your smartphone and receive one digital ticket for the fastest route by plane, train and e-car. The next day, you arrive at the client office in Beijing and receive the products you are presenting, shipped just in time from a Chinese warehouse.

This is what travel and logistics could be like in 2025. It is not far-fetched science fiction; the technology to make this happen exists today. Our fast-paced, complex and interdependent society is driving transformation at an unprecedented scale.

And let’s face it, we badly need such a transformation. Anyone who lives in a city like Bangkok, Johannesburg, New Delhi or Sao Paolo understands the wasted time and frustration caused by traffic congestion. These megacities are the economic powerhouses of their nations – yet congestion is stifling their competitiveness.

The pool of potential talent for any employer is restricted to those that can actually reach the workplace. Congestion reduces that pool of talent. A system of free-flowing driverless vehicles would not only improve quality of life, safety and the environment, it would also improve productivity and economic growth.

The World Economic Forum is exploring the theme: Living a Hyperconnected Reality, with four related projects examining cyber security; privacy and personal data; individual rights and access to information; and the future of travel.

We are looking into the future impact of technology, shifting consumer attitudes, demographics and other “megatrends” on global transportation systems. What connectivity means for the movement of people and goods – the types of transport we will use and the ways they will seamlessly interconnect.

To help us, we have engaged senior executives from the mobility industries and from the information and communication technologies (ICT) industries. The Boston Consulting Group has helped us identify 20 key megatrends that will reshape the future of mobility. They are clustered into four categories: changing customer needs, new mobility frontiers, new technology vectors and key capabilities for the future.

Technology – and how we are socialized to new technology — will certainly help us move towards a truly connected world. “Cloud” solutions will enable us to optimize the use of digitized data, for example, and integrate travel and logistics more efficiently. This will have a big impact on pricing, optimized routing and scheduling, customer profiling, privacy and security protection.

With e-commerce and mobile commerce growing exponentially, along with mobile device usage, companies will have multiple new sales channels at their disposal. New integrated transport booking systems will undoubtedly emerge.

But although technology is a necessary driver of this transformation, it is not enough by itself. The institutional and legal challenges posed by the adoption of driverless vehicles, for example, will be immense.

The Forum- Boston Consulting Group team has just completed the next step in the process: weaving the megatrends into four scenarios for how the world could evolve and the implications for connected transportation. Stay tuned for the future – it will be quite a ride.

About the author: John Moavenzadeh is Senior Director, Head of Mobility Industries at the World Economic Forum, USA.  

Pictured: Handout photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles shows what the Google self-driven car sees while navigating the road network in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

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