Bell Nexus hybrid-electric VTOL, USA.

CES 2019 Panel:
“The Future of Transportation”

By Jim Sherman

Once again, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest assembly of the latest and greatest consumer technology from around the world, kicked off in Las Vegas Jan. 8-11, 2019. And as usual the Consumer Technology Association assembled some very exciting conference sessions, especially in mobility and transportation.

The Future of Transportation session featured some very interesting names representing some competing forms of transportation being developed. The panel featured Dana Wollman of Engadget as the moderator with panelists Amish Parashar from Yamaha, Andrew Poliak from Panasonic, Michael Thacker of Bell, and Anita Sengupta from Virgin Hyperloop.

Early in the discussion, Poliak pointed out that automobile manufacturers are now rebranding themselves as mobility companies. With Ford adding Argo, Chariot, Spin and TransLoc, and GM adding Cruise Automation and Strobe, and investing in Lyft and Maven, it is clear that making automobiles is just not enough. The experience of the trip is more important than the passion of the car. With the great migration to cities, more people are eliminating the personal automobile and switching to ride-sharing and last-mile options in conjunction with mass transit on their daily journey.

Sengupta highlighted that the younger generation is more attuned to environmental issues, and, in general, they have less income and are therefore not interested in purchasing and maintaining a vehicle. Many people recognize the personal freedom a vehicle provides, but are also recognizing the costs involved with operations, payments, insurance, regular maintenance, parking, tolls, etc.

The future of transportation includes automobiles and mass transit, but more types of transportation are being conceived and built, including air taxis, hyperloops and automated vehicles of all sizes and shapes. The largest obstacles in gaining acceptance for these new modes are not only regulatory certification, but social acceptance. Thacker said, “Public acceptance of technology is critical, and not only that but the technology must be accessible.”

The future of transportation is built on technology but technology is not the issue … acceptance in operation is.

So, what happens to our current forms of mass transportation — buses and rail — when customized, door-to-door mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) becomes commonplace? Well, they will still have a place if municipalities keep them current, relevant and optimized.

If there was anything to learn from this panel, it is that the future of transportation will be very different from 2019 and it will be very efficient — and yet cool.

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