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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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6 Technology Trends Revolutionizing The Transportation Sector

The transportation industry boasts this inglorious claim to fame: It’s responsible for nearly 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. 

Of that, cars and trucks alone are believed to be responsible for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions. 

But here’s another figure that the transportation industry doesn’t want tossed around: A loss of $87 billion. 

It’s not profit loss. It’s how much Americans lost on average every year due to traffic congestion. 

Americans have lost an average of 97 hours a year due to congestion, which costs them roughly $87 billion, or an average of $1,348 per driver, according to 2018 INRIX National Traffic Scorecard. 

And it’s about to get worse.

The market now is all about doing two things at once: cleaning up and getting out of traffic. The tech advance that makes both possible wins on all levels. 

Here are the 5 cleanest modes of travel right now: 

#1 Virtual Reality

Rather facetiously, we’re giving the top spot to a form of travel that is clean largely because it doesn’t involve any movement from one place to another. It’s the only form of travel that has a chance right now to pick up market share from trans-Atlantic flight-shaming. Anywhere you can’t get by train, you can get via virtual reality. And, of course, it’s the cheapest form of travel in the world.

Everyone from Google and Samsung to HTC and Oculus VR are offering VR hardware these days, enabling effortless, free travel to a very realistic 3D bonanza of exotic places. 

Immersive Entertainment offers trips to just about anywhere you’d want to go virtually for less than $3 a trip. This is the new reality of virtual reality tourism. It’s not just about playing games anymore. Likewise, Solfar Studios can take you places like Mt. Everest, and beyond. 

Source: Solfar Studios

As of 2018, the AR (augmented reality) and VR markets together offering opportunities worth up to $13 billion. And this market is expected to increase at a massive clip of up to 38% from 2019 to 2025. 

#2 Micro-Mobility, The Real Answer to Clean and Congested

Until the advent of micro-mobility, nothing has really promised any revolutionary change to massive amounts of traffic, climate change or urban crowding. 

The thing is, we don’t need cars at all, half the time. And that’s what the market is now catching onto: The real revolution is micro-mobility, and the best tech advancements come from things we’ve had forever: bikes and scooters. 

And here’s why: In the U.S., where you might think giving up on cars is a bust, consider this: Nearly half of all car trips in the biggest cities are less than 3 miles. It’s shouting for micro-mobility, which could shave hours off time stuck in traffic, every day. 

According to 2018 data of the US Department of Energy, in 2017 nearly 60 percent of all vehicle trips were less than six miles in 2017. Precisely three-fourths of all trips are 10 miles or less, which is ideal for means of transport such as scooters. 

The first wave of regular electric scooters have turned into unicorns almost overnight, with investors pumping more than $5.7 billion into two-wheeled startups since 2015.

Scooter startup Bird is only two years old, but it’s already worth $2.5 billion. Just this month, it raised $275 million in fresh funding. In February, giant Lime raised another $310 million to push its valuation to $2.4 billion. Berlin’s Tier, a key European rival in this sector, just raised another $60 million in new financing, led by SoftBank Group’s massive Vision Fund. 

It’s a crowded space, but that doesn’t seem to bother venture capitalists who keep throwing down cash for what they are sure is the next revolution in urban transport. 

But right now, they’re throwing cash into chaos. And the first scooters were just … well, scooters. They’ve prompted a relentless backlash in the media for causing chaos and even more crowding. The next unicorns, though, will fix all of that. 

Both General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) have significant interests in this burgeoning sector, as well.

General Motors, for its part, has created its own brand of electric bikes, called Ariv. The bikes were just launched this year, but have already captured the attention of the European market.

While they err on the side of pricey, coming in at $3,800 per unit, they do boast a high top speed and can travel a modest distance on a single charge.

The kicker for many, however, is that they can fold into an easily carriable pack, making them the perfect choice for a lot of commuters. Especially in big cities like London or Berlin.

Ford, on the other hand, is taking a different approach. It’s swooped right into the scooter market, buying Spin for a clean $100 million. Initially deployed in San Francisco back in 2017, Spin is widely considered to be a part of the Big Three of the scooter world, along with Lime and Bird.

While Ford’s buyout of Spin made headlines, it’s certainly not the first urban transportation alternative Ford’s sunk its teeth into.

In recent years, Ford also bought commuter shuttle service Chariot, Autonomic and TransLoc, aiming to ensure that it does not miss the boat as this new movement accelerates.

#3 Electric vehicles

Ever since the first electric Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius was released in 2000, critics have been questioning whether they are actually cleaner for the environment. But despite hefty criticism, it’s clear that the future of driving is electric. 

In 2017, more than 1 million electric vehicles were sold for the first time. That number doubled to 2 million in 2018, and by 2040 EVs could make up more than half of all new sales. 

Of course, global EV sales finished September 2019 down 8% year-over-year, with 183,000 sales for the month. Market share in September was at 2.3%, both for the month and year-to-date. Still, it was an improvement over August’s sales of 158,000

It’s clearly bursting at the seams despite the September drag. Cities or even entire countries have teamed up to ban sales of cars powered by internal combustion engines. Norway announced its ban by 2025, India by 2030, France and the UK by 2040. 

According to European Environment Agency (EEA) report, battery electric cars emit less greenhouse gases and air pollutants over their entire life cycle than petrol and diesel cars. 

But the real question is this, especially for big cities: Do we even need cars? The micro-mobility revolution says … maybe not. 

#4 Hydro Boats

Powered by a combination of renewable energy and hydropower to propel the boat and charge its batteries, the hydrogen-powered boat is a favorite among environmentalists because it emits zero greenhouse gases. 

This boat removes the salt and ions from ocean water, and then separates it into its base elements: hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored until it's needed for fuel while solar panels and wind turbines supplement the power.

The world's first hydrogen-powered boat, the Energy Observer, started its journey in 2017 in France. Powered only by electricity, relying on solar for about 52 percent of their energy and 42 percent from the wind and 6 percent from hydrogen, this boat has sailed around 18,000 nautical miles visiting 25 countries in the last two years. In total it is due to visit 50 countries and 101 ports during its six-year journey. 

Source: Energy Observer

There won’t be a huge market share for the hydro boat, though, unless you live in Waterworld, so micro-mobility still steals this show. 

#5 The Good Old Train

High-speed rail is gunning for new investment thanks to the lobbying efforts of railway proponents who argue that this is a key element of making transportation cleaner.

In fact, electric cars aside and micro-mobility solutions aside, rail transport is arguably the cleanest way to travel. Per kilometer, rail transport is responsible for emitting 80% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars. This, combined with the fact that a typical passenger train line could transport up to 50,000 people per hour makes the case itself. It’s blown the freeway away, especially when it’s not electric.

Rail could play a huge role in what is bandied about as the “New Green Deal”. Rail is already a growing alternative to flying, especially in the midst of a flight-shaming campaign that’s gaining serious traction.  

Earlier this month, the IAE noted in its Future of Rail report that trains carry 8% of the world’s motorized passengers and 7% of freight. At the same time, it is said to only use 2% of the energy consumed in the transportation sector. 

While mass transit is the most efficient means of moving large numbers of people long distances, the problem is getting them to the mass transit point--and back--in the first place. And it’s a big problem when you consider that over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, with Deloitte estimated that that will climb to two-thirds by 2050. 

So for now, the revolution is all about the first mile, and the last mile. And that means micro-mobility is the answer to our “transit deserts”. 

#6 Flying Taxis And Automated Taxis

We’re finally about to see dream of flying taxis become a reality. And spearheading this charge is Boeing (NYSE:BA).

In early October, the aircraft giant signed a deal with Porsche to create an automated flying taxi.

This is significant because both companies are leaders in their respective fields. And while other flying taxis have been conceptualized in the past…none have the market presence – or experience – that Porsche and Boeing have.

While still in the early stages, Boeing and Porsche hope to identify a market, define the use cases, and create a product that will solidify their places as royalty in this new market. Both companies have a history in doing just that. While Porsche isn’t exactly known for the volume of its sales, its profits are consistently impressive. And Boeing has led innovation in the aviation sector for decades.

And then of course, there's Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL). As one of the world's largest tech companies, it's only reasonable tat it would have its own stake in the transportation revolution. It's Waymo subsidiary was one of the very first movers on the self-driving scene, and it's been a trailblazer ever since.

In 2018, Waymo launched a pilot program with Google to use autonomous trucks to move freight to its sister company's Atlanta-area data centers. Using the same sensors and software as Waymo's other autonomous fleet, Class 8 tractor-trailers began testing Waymo's self-driving technology in California and Arizona in 2017

By. Charles Kennedy


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