Back in 1993, 2pac famously said:
“I get around.”
This was way before the advent of technologies such as the Segway, the hybrid car, hover boards, and autonomous vehicles. This was even before the internet really took off. Imagine all the ways he could get around in 2016 (provided that he isn’t already doing so under an alternate identity). Technology has had a clear impact on the way that humanity moves on both a micro and macro level.
On a micro level, technology influences the way people move within neighborhoods. This was witnessed over the past several months with the meteoric rise of, the geo-location based game, Pokémon Go. Consumers have been leaving their homes and navigating throughout their neighborhoods searching for Pokémon, using lures, interacting with other trainers, and battling at gyms. Consumers are moving about their communities, and neighboring communities, visiting areas they would not have previously visited to catch the Pokémon that inhabit the area. Chances are you have been exposed to the apps influence on movement.
Bystander walking down the sidewalk. Phone out in front, leading the way. Chin drawn back. Head down. Eyes glued to the screen. Seemingly unaware of the surrounding environment. Recognize this familiar sight?
This cultural phenomenon has had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on human movement. It has ushered the mass adoption of augmented reality (AR) technology — the future of gaming — which will continue to influence the way we see, interact with, and navigate the world.
Technology has influenced the way we move by foot, but even greater than that is the impact on the other modes of transportation. Companies such as Uber, Lyft, Bridj, Google, and Tesla — to name a few — are revolutionizing road transport.
Ride-sharing platforms, Uber & Lyft, have effectively enabled us to summon transportation at the tap of a button. These apps made it socially acceptable to carpool again. Gone are the days of ‘stranger danger.’ (Well, not entirely…but risks have been mitigated.)
Another company influencing land transport is Bridj — a pop-up mass transit system. Bridj is gathering data on the movement patterns of customers and ultimately, human civilization. Moving forward, this data will enable their company to collaborate with the public sector on urban planning. (It has already begun working with cities to improve transit options.)
Uber, Lyft, and Bridj have given consumers a convenient, efficient, and affordable option for intracity movement that was not previously provided by existing taxi services and public transportation. Advances in technology that are shaping transportation do no stop there.
Autonomous vehicles appear to be another technological advancement that will greatly impact the way we move in the future. Companies such as Google and Tesla have proven it to be a viable concept. However, it is public perception and society’s unpreparedness that inhibits its diffusion, not the viability of the technology. Elon Musk’s recent announcement of Master Plan, Part Deux gave us a glimpse into the future of the technology and its potential impact on society.
As time wears on autonomous vehicles will seamlessly integrate into society and improve the way we move by land. The software will enable the network of vehicles to interact with one another and prevent accidents. With the threat of accidents eliminated by the absence of human error, it will improve transportation safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
Due to the advancements of these technologies, the United States, and world-at-large, will be well-equipped to design the optimal infrastructure to reduce bottlenecks and regulate the flow of traffic (imagine the impact this will have on Los Angeles). This will enable the real-time adaptability of a network of autonomous vehicles — both privately and publicly owned.
There are clear benefits to be realized:
• Optimized routes-reducing distance & fuel consumption.
• Increased efficiency-reducing transit times, and increasing human productivity-which will lead to advancements in technology and scientific breakthroughs.
• The improvement of reduction in carbon emissions — due to less time that cars are idling in traffic
Advancements in land transport technology is undeniable and well-documented. However, only about 29% of the earth’s surface is occupied by land. Although water transport has not received the same attention, technology is making waves in this mode of transportation as well. One company that is using technology to greatly influence global transportation is, San Francisco based Freight Forwarder, Flexport.
Flexport is a licensed freight forwarder that uses people and software to manage the complexity of international trade. Flexport uses its dashboard to collect vast amounts of data on routes, rates, speeds, and customs compliance to optimize the most efficient movement of goods. They are a leading player impacting maritime transport and the90% of the world’s trade which is carried by sea.
Flexport’s impact is not exclusive to water transport as it also optimizes the shipment of goods via rail, road, and air. The startup is truly affecting global transportation having moved freight to or from 64 countries for over 700 clients with a $1.5 billion annual run rate of merchandise value shipped.
With port infrastructure imposing capacity constraints on global trade, the efficiency of the movement of goods becomes increasingly prevalent. Flexport is one company that will continue to use technology to influence this.
Most technological advances of transportation have been made in the modes of land (road & rail), water, and air. Advances are most often relegated to the troposphere. Until recently, most entrepreneurs have not had the foresight or bravado to literally aim for the stars. Visionary entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have done so. It is no secret that Musk is building his company SpaceX with the goal of colonizing Mars. Similarly, Bezos is equally ambitious with his private spaceflight company Blue Origin. They are developing technology that is making space exploration more efficient and more cost-effective — leading to rapid progress within a field that had been stagnant over the past half-century. Bezos’ Blue Origin has successfully developeda vessel that can be launched, landed, and re-used. Comparably, Musk’s SpaceX launched a rocket — Falcon 9 — into orbit, delivered 11 satellites, and successfully landed.
The development of these companies, and others, will eventually lead to the emergence of a new industry — space tourism. Space tourism will allow the average person to travel throughout space observing the solar system in all of its grandeur — a luxury previously only afforded to astronauts that have dedicated their lives to the mission. This industry has the potential to fundamentally change the way human civilization travels.
What does the future hold for transportation technology? Will it be teleportation, a network of Hyperloop infrastructure or a technology that is not currently in existence?
In 2012, the world witnessed the revival of 2pac in the form of a hologram for a performance at Coachella. Will developments in hologram technology reduce or eliminate our need to travel for in-person communication? That is to be determined. However, one thing is certain. We can expect technology to continue moving humanity forward by changing the way we get around our neighborhoods, planet, and solar system.
Movement is the message. Technology is the medium.