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Volpe continues exploring ways to go #BeyondTraffic

Volpe continues exploring ways to go #BeyondTraffic

Throughout last fall, DOT's Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center, hosted nine distinguished speakers all talking about emerging ways to move America beyond traffic. Advances in communications, connected vehicles, navigation, and automation —coupled with a surge in transportation-related data— are poised to dramatically change how we travel and deliver goods and services; Volpe's speakers took us on a grand tour of that transportation world we might soon inhabit. And last week, Volpe combined the recordings of these nine speakers into one playlist to simplify viewing.

But even though the Beyond Traffic 2045 series officially ended December 9 with Google's Chris Urmson, you can't say that Volpe has slowed down its exploration of the trends that will transform transportation over the next 10, 20, or 30 years.

Recently, Volpe hosted TRB Executive Director Neil Pedersen to talk about possible guidance for the emerging transportation sharing economy. That guidance is part of a TRB policy paper, Between Public and Private Mobility, which dives into the ins and outs of ride-sharing, traditional taxi regulatory schemes, labor and employment issues, public safety, and paths for further policy research.

Pedersen's first observation —that innovative mobility services are expanding travel choices and are widely embraced by millions of travelers— is not likely to stop Fast Lane readers in their tracks. But his second point —that many Americans might be left out, and that the sharing economy threatens to widen the digital divide— is worth pausing to consider. Challenges to safety and accessibility in a largely unregulated environment must also be considered.

And just this week, Volpe released 2015 OST-R Transportation Technology Scan: A Look Ahead, a report on 11 technological advances and innovative concepts that could fundamentally alter the transportation landscape. The new report examines the benefits of these emerging innovations as well as the challenges and risks they pose.

While some of the ideas —for example, connected and automated vehicles, and transportation sharing— won't be new to transportation folks, you might be surprised to see discussion of things like new developments in materials science and nanotechnology, 3D printing, and robotics, concepts in wide discussion but not often linked into the transportation conversation.

Apart from being just plain fascinating, this report could be very useful to cities considering applying to our current Smart City Challenge. To learn more about these connections, we urge you to take a look at the new report on the National Transportation Library website.

With all of these events and publications, it's pretty clear that Volpe isn't about to yield its position atop the leaderboard of Beyond Traffic champions. And that's a big win for American transportation.


Interested in the Smart City Challenge? View the Notice of Funding Opportunity at www.transportation.gov/smartcity/nofo.

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