“The Future of Transportation”

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Hello and welcome back to the Dr. Nilda Business Foresight Show. Today with me is my co-host Rachel Calderon. Say hello Rachel.

Hello. How are you guys?

Today we have with us Anne Boysen who was here a few weeks back. She was talking about Generation Z. Today she’s going to be talking about the future of Transportation. Anne Boysen uses original methods to draw from strategic foresight and data analysis. She dives deep into social statistics, trend spotting, and data mining to advice businesses and non-profits on how to act on early signs of change. She shares her insights as an advisor, and via consulting projects and keynotes around the world. Boysen is a partner of Alliance Partner for the Pearson Strategy Group, LLC; and is also the Vice President of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society. She holds a Masters in Futures Studies from University in Houston and additional graduate-level education in Business Analytics and Data Mining. Welcome back and, how are you?

Good. Thanks for having me again.

Today we’re going to talk about transportation and the future of transportation. I think this is a very interesting topic to say the least and it’s definitely something that we all use. I think more than ever everybody uses some form of transportation if not all. I want you to tell me what do you see as the future of transportation let’s say 2040 or 2050?

The first thing we need to start thinking about is how is the demographic picture changing. Because it’s really the demography that is going to dictate the needs for transportation and what we are going to see on the roads and at what times. I think that’s an important area to start because it’s very easy to start with the technology and then we’ll forget the market. But we need to start with the market. One of the behavior patterns that we can anticipate is changes in work commuting. So, for example the demographic shift is such that we’re going to have a lot of older people. We have lowered a smaller ratio between older and younger people. The Millennials are going to approach middle aged and baby boomers are going to be maybe a decade’s shy of becoming centurions. We’re going to have a few of them around because people are living longer. We have two big populations. You have the baby boomers then the Xer’s who are very small and then the Millennials at the bottom. When the Millennials are entering sort of that midlife that’s what we’re talking about here. Then we’re going to have a lot of the baby boomers who are maybe not so much on the road to go to work anymore because you typically are not doing that when you’re in the 80s or 90s. Even as we’re continuing to live longer. Another thing that is important to remember is that a lot of Millennials are coming to a delayed adulthood. Which just means that even though they are close to middle-age they might actually not just have started families but they might have kids 10 or 15 years old. They might not be in that same situation boomers had at the same age. Another trend we’re seeing is that we have more and more freelancers. We might actually have as many as 50% free lancers in 2040 and telecommuters because we don’t really need to travel unless we absolutely have to. So, this makes for a much less predictable traffic picture because people are going to go whenever they need to go. You can’t really predict the traffic flow as well as you can do today. However, that’s not necessarily a very difficult problem to have. It might actually represent some solutions because we are going to start to use technology where are our vehicles are in the different transportation system. At least the vehicles on the road are going to communicate with one another. So, there’s going to be algorithms to decide what is the best road to take now and you should go here instead and so forth. I should probably also mention we are expecting to see possible some changes in public transportation. Which will allow people to live further away from work and still be able to commute pretty far distances. The Hyperloop is basically like a magnetic vacuum tube. Which is the idea that you can send people in these little pods very fast almost as fast as commercial jets at the moment. If cities will get this type of infrastructure they will be able to put far more distances behind them. Now why I think this is viable technologies is because what we’re seeing now in with urbanization people are moving into cities. But we’re kind of reaching a maximum of how many people are going to be able to finance and be able to live in these very big metropolitan areas. Since then what we have started to see is these medium sized cities. For example, you have Austin versus Houston and Dallas. You have that sort of triangle. You have San Francisco, Sacramento and LA. You have all these little cities in between that are urban but they’re kind of far away. So, once we get these types of transportation that can get us there much faster we might see people live further away from where they work if they still commute into the city whenever they’re not working from home. So, we see that and then of course what is on everybody’s lips these days the self-driving car. I’m not saying when we do but if we see self-driving cars on the road by 2040 and I think there’s a pretty high probability that we might. I do believe that the whole commuting experience and the whole the whole culture of road travel is going to change dramatically.

I feel like I’m living in the Jetsons which was one of my favorite cartoons. But, I never thought that it would actually get to this moment of self-driving cars. I know Ford has the reversible it drives itself into a parking lot. Which kind of for me it’s a little skeptical. But what are other technologies that were to expect in our cars?

Typically, we want to divide the different levels of automation into five levels of automation. Right now, what you can see on the road already with Tesla you have some level 2 automation. Where it means that they can basically do most of the driving itself. Those are the ones that are commercially available. We do also have like in our neighborhood we used to have these little Google cars test driving around in the neighborhood. That was very interesting because they had to put a person inside there because people would freak out if you don’t didn’t have that. But that little car was basically collecting data. When we get to level four and five automation that is the level where the car can do everything on its own. That’s really what we call full automation. That’s when you don’t have to pay attention at all to the road. The driving the computer takes care of itself. A lot of people have this idea that with the different levels of automation you have zero then one two three four five it’s linear sort of like we just have to overcome these different tubes. Then we get into the next level. But it’s more like this: you get to level two and to level three and then there’s a huge distance to get to those last levels of automation or to be able to put them in the car. It’s not because we don’t have the technology the deep learning networks that are capable or the infrastructure to be able to process that information that the car needs. The point is we need so much more data. We need incredible amounts of data for the car to understand what it needs to do in different situations. For example, in a typical situation your start/stop. The person gets into the road you can predict for all of those situations. It’s fairly easy to teach the car to get to that level. That’s when you get up to that level three. Now the last few levels the reason that we still might be some ways before we have full automation is because we have to prepare the car for scenarios that we might not even have seen before. Now we’re talking about something called Moravec’s paradox. Moravec laid back in the computers stone age and he was working on artificial intelligence and he realized that computers can do very sophisticated mathematical work. They’re far better than us. So, 90% of the time computers are so much better than us because they’re not clouded by all of our strange bias and our shortcuts in our thinking. But when it comes to the last 10% when things are really unusual for example you’re in the jungle there’s something moving towards you it looks like it has like a snout or something and two eyes and it’s moving like this. Now the thing is like a computer algorithm it will try to sort of like use some sort of base and logic and try to understand. It will go through a lot of algorithms. This hgx color number there and then it’s like this pixel up in the corner. The problem is it’s not going to be able to run away fast enough because it doesn’t have that instinct to understand this is danger run away. That’s the type of intelligence that we’re still struggling with. It’s not because we don’t have the digital convolutional neural networks and all that’s there. We don’t have enough data. Where do you get that data? It’s going to take a lot of time to get all that data to get to full automation I think.

As you’re speaking this is the scenario that’s coming to mind. If there is an unusual hailstorm or an unusual volcano will that car be running into it? Because a human being will know enough to say oh my goodness there’s something going on over there we need to get out of that. But if the car is not prepared for that scenario the car will very well put you in danger rather than get you to where you need to go. Which is its function. It’s what’s it supposed to do. But it won’t know those scenarios. It doesn’t have the brain to be able to process this.

Exactly and it doesn’t have the survival instincts. We don’t put a lot of emphasis on that. The human brain is able to do a lot with very little information. I’m not saying we should and I would say that in 90% of the cases we probably should leave a lot of decision-making to the computer because they are they are better at deductive analytics. Again, I’m steeped in data mining and data analytics. I’ve been working with some of these algorithms myself. The statistical model that I can let some of my programs use there’s no way I would come up with in my head. I would never be able to reach that decision. But in a split-second decision but I’m still much more better.

That makes a lot of sense. Here’s my next question. Now that is transportation in terms of your cars. Where do you see the future of transportation of planes and even boats going?

I haven’t really worked in that domain very much. I do know that they’re experimenting. We joke about planes and boats material the masses of the materials used is a big concern. I know that there’s some really lightweight materials coming out now where almost as much as 90% it’s just air. It’s the construction itself. It’s the absorption in the construction itself that makes the material so strong. Then you can put graphene nine-to-fiver it’s all these different types of metals themselves. Then it’s the construction of the materials. I think we will see more lightweight. I think we’ll see there’s many interesting things happening with energy. What type of energy they will be using. I’m not so familiar with that particular area. I’m looking more at the regular day-to-day transportation.

I’m thinking more of humans using. Will there be more transportation in terms of will people be using more planes? I know that they’re using far more planes than they were when I was younger as a child. I remember that going away was a huge deal. Why? Because most people didn’t. It was it was huge but now being transient is not a problem. You could be here today and in London this afternoon and then back in two days. That’s more of the change that I’m talking about.

I think Millennials are the ones that are traveling the most with generation Z following very close behind. That is probably more of an age thing that they just haven’t reached those years yet. Now it slows down a little bit when you’re in the age of Generation X. It depends on why you travel to. I would think that Generation Xers are probably doing a little bit more business travel and Millennials are traveling. What we’re seeing too is the younger people that tend to travel for shorter term months a time. They don’t plan as long vacations. It’s more like I’m going to make a short trip. They also want to combine pleasure and business much more than generations before. Those are some interesting trends.

In my travels that’s the other thing I’ve seen. I see a lot of Millennials going away for the weekend to Puerto Rico. Going away for the weekend to Austin. They’re just going for the weekend we needed to get away. It’s not something that I was accustomed to. I’m a baby boomer. It was not something I was accustomed to. I always have to have a purpose. I am going on vacation. I’m going to be away for a week or I’m going for business. But they just do these very like frivolous travels and I find that to be so interesting. It’s just for a few days. It is because they’ve become very accustomed and very comfortable with traveling.

Again, sometimes we tend to think of the younger generation as isolating themselves in this technological bubble world where they don’t want to get out of it. But they are very physical and they do travel. I actually think that if I were to speculate freely I think that we’re going to start to see emergence between the physical world of travel and transportation and the social media world. We’ve already started to see it. If you go back to you know regular day to day travel. What is sharing services like uber? What it really is, is it’s a social platform that connects driver and passenger. Then you have navigation apps such as ways. On top of the GPS you have social input where people are adding explanation. Social explanation is something going on. The reason that you have all these traffickers is because there’s a traffic accident occurring up the road. Now imagine this because in 10-15 years we might have connected vehicles where our cars are actually communicating with each other and the environment around us. Actually, the government has set aside parts of the spectrum of the radio spectrum just for that purpose. If you can keep some low latency communication between vehicles it means that you can improve safety. Now if you take this one step further you have this vehicle to vehicle to communication and vehicle to infrastructure communication. You layer on a social network on top of it now you have a completely different transportation experience. You might be sitting stuck in traffic and they realize that whoever opted in to share their social information oh that’s my friend over there sitting a few lanes up the road. Your neighbor might be somewhere else in the lane and they might be putting their car on cruise control and say hey I’m going to go by the store do I need to pick up something for you? Or you might have eye contact with some very cute person. Now the commute is fun again.  I don’t think we should think of our world as either digital or physical. I think that we’re starting to see the mergers of these two worlds coming together. That’s where the future might be going in terms of both transportation and social interactions.

Or how about in the business world if we’re stuck in traffic we can still have our meeting from via via our smart car.

I think that’s some of those propositions that are coming out. When we do get self-driving cars, we don’t really need to own our car anymore. It’s okay if you want to but you don’t really have to. The idea is that your car is no longer just a car it becomes a moving room. Now if you aren’t going to be transported in a moving room that you don’t own well you’re going to have a business meeting. You might have a car or a moving room that has some business functionality to it. Where you can have a meeting. You have good Wi-Fi and all these facilities. Now let’s say you want to do a road trip with a family you might opt to have a self-driving car that is very child-friendly. All of a sudden you have a completely new environment and a complete new way of looking at travel and cars in general. They simply won’t look like cars anymore.

That’s some experience. I always tell people that the beauty of the future is that we look at everything that we do everything, everything that we buy, and everything we sell to make it an experience. That’s excellent. I have one last question. I want to know what are some of the interesting scenarios on the horizon? We’re always looking at scenarios so, what are some of the interesting scenarios on the horizon that will change the way that transportation will look in the future?

I really think it depends on whether cities actually do come together. Different stakeholders in different cities and rural areas as well. They come together and they can work together. Because there’s going to be a lot of data sharing. This becomes necessary. We’re talking about the Smart City development. That includes so many stakeholders from different backgrounds and all of these need to work together. You have the people in business, you have real estate developers, you have city municipalities, you have energy sector, you have the car companies and so much. It’s about exchanging data. There’s a lot of concerns around that. There’s a lot of infrastructural concern. There’s liability issues. When something goes wrong who is responsible? There’s hack ability issues. That might actually be one of the greatest issues. When we get this whole smart infrastructure where everything is connected to everything else imagine if you hack into that. Now what happens? What kind of security scenarios do we have here? There’s a lot of externalities. There’s a lot of potential political stalemates. Which is why when I think in terms of the future and future scenarios and transportation and an internet-connected world in general I think we’re starting to get into this face of politics. It’s political. It’s not so much technological anymore. How do we regulate it? How do we actually facilitate this development if that is what we want? We have to decide first of all if that is what we want. If that’s what we want how do we facilitate it? Instead of speculating on that scenario versus that I think that’s one of those key issues that need to be hashed out before we before we get where we think we’re going.

I love this. This has been an excellent interview. Do you want to leave any takeaways with the audience regarding transportation and the future of it?

I’m actually very interested to see the next generation and how they interact with it of course. I hear there are some services coming out. We Millennials we saw an interest in buying new cars drop. Of course, now they’re buying a lot of cars and that’s only because of the live face that they’re in. They’re getting into that establishment phase. Starting families. People realized at some point it’s just easier to have a car. Where they’re not interested in buying cars because they were on to a late start? Or was this a trend? What we’re starting to see with Generation Z is that they are actually more interested in owning cars. They’re not very interested in bells and whistles. They’re not interested in big brands. They’re just interested in safety. I think that that’s kind of interesting. If you’re a parent you might actually be on the same side with your child in terms of priorities when you’re looking into buying a new car. They’re very interested in safety. So, you can sleep well at night. They’re not going to try to road rage or get out late at night. I’m not going to promise anything but it looks like this generation has a pretty good head on their shoulders.

Again, I want to thank you for coming to the show and sharing the future of Transportation. Which I know it’s something that we’re all very interested in because we all need to get somewhere. So, we all need transportation some way or another. So, I want to thank you for being here with us and we look forward to probably the very near future if you come up with something new please let us know so

that we can have you back in the show.

I will do that thank you so much for having me.

All right bye-bye. All right guys I want to thank everyone for being here. We want to thank you for being able to share Anne with you guys to show you that the future of Transportation is really it’s fast and furious and before we know it there’s going to be a lot of changes in the way we travel and what we travel in. So, thank you so much for being here. I look forward to seeing you next week with another guest. Bye.


Our Guest

Anne Boysen a futurist who uses an original method drawn from strategic foresight and data analytics. She dives deep into social statistics, trend spotting, and data mining to advice businesses and non-profits on how to act on early signs of change. She shares her insights as an advisor, and via consulting projects and keynotes around the world.

Boysen is a partner of  Alliance Partner for the Pearson Strategy Group, LLC; and is also the Vice President of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society. She holds a Masters in Futures Studies from University in Houston and additional graduate-level education in Business Analytics and Data Mining.

Guest Link


Show Transcript


Interview With Anne Boysen: “The Future of Transportation”

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#The Future of Transportation