After decades of relative stagnation, the world of transportation is on the cusp of multiple revolutions. The biggest three:
- Electrification: a shift from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs)
- Automation: a shift from human-piloted vehicles to automated vehicles (AVs) that drive themselves
- Ride-sharing: a shift from privately owned, often single-occupant vehicles to fleets of shared cars, vans, and small and large buses
There has been a great deal of discussion about how these revolutions will proceed. Urbanists, who have been fighting for decades to shift the focus of urban planners away from cars to a more holistic vision, with a wider variety of transportation options (“multimodal”) and more land devoted to pro-social uses, are particularly interested in these interactions.
For urbanists, these coming transportation revolutions might portend heaven — fewer cars, less parking, more places for biking, walking, and gathering — or they might portend a hell of more cars, more vehicle miles traveled, worse congestion, and more sprawl.
Which of these two futures comes to pass, or what mix of the two, does not depend on technology. It depends on us — our willingness to discuss, debate, and plan for the future we want.