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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

11 Emerging Technologies That Could Have Major Impacts on Transportation

Monday, January 25, 2016

A recent report by Volpe experts identifies emerging technologies and innovative applications that may have significant impacts on our transportation systems within three to five years.

The resource, 2015 OST-R Transportation Technology Scan: A Look Ahead, identifies 11 technological advances and innovative concepts—along with their associated benefits, challenges, and risks—that could fundamentally alter the transportation landscape:

  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
  • Advanced analytics and machine learning
  • Automated vehicles
  • Hyperloop
  • Infrastructure inspection robots
  • Innovative concepts for protecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists
  • The Internet of Things
  • Materials science in infrastructure
  • On-demand ride services (transportation network companies)
  • Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
  • Wireless power transfer

“Advances in just the past decade have dramatically changed the way Americans travel and deliver goods, and the pace of change is something we cannot dictate,” writes U.S. DOT Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Gregory Winfree in the report’s foreword. “This is why we must be proactive and look to new technologies that have clear applications for transportation. However, new technologies can also introduce new risks, and we must anticipate the full range of potential impacts.”

The report notes external factors that could maximize or hinder potential, such as the growing role of data and connectivity, changes to the workforce, and the uncertain impact of these technologies on travel behaviors.

The intent of this resource is to stimulate discussion across the U.S. Department of Transportation and inform transportation practitioners on promising areas of innovation where public research investments should be focused.

For more insights into these 11 emerging technologies, read the full report.

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