Postcard from the Next Generation of Transportation

Stephanie Levine also contributed to this article.

We recently attended an interesting event at the Heinz History Center hosted by the Post-Gazette and Peoples Gas titled “The Next Generation of Transportation”.  The panel consisted of five experts in transportation and related engineering fields who discussed industry changes that we may see in the future, including innovations that are underway with relation to pollution reduction, safety and automation.

We learned at this event that the world’s 15 largest cargo ships on the ocean pollute as much as all the cars in the world, and there are currently 100,000 ships like this on the ocean. To help solve this problem, companies are working on improving small ships now and taking this technology to larger ships in the future. One of those companies is Blue Gas Marine, a local company founded by engineer and former NASA scientist Miguel Guerreiro. The company specializes in using natural gas to power marine engines instead of diesel fuel. 

Another area where innovation is changing the transportation industry is safety. The Road to Zero campaign aims to eliminate traffic fatalities within 30 years. In 2016, there were nearly 40,000 traffic fatalities in the United States.  Costa Samaras, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Liisa Ecola, a senior policy analyst and transportation planner with the Rand Corporation, discussed some of the safety improvements that we are already seeing in current-year models of passenger vehicles. These include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and automatic braking assistance. The experts also explained that in the future, as cars and trucks become safer, the materials used in vehicles may become lighter and reduce fuel consumption.

A third major topic covered at the event was autonomous vehicles. Peter Rander, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Argo AI, the robotics and artificial intelligence start-up that partners with Ford to build self-driving cars, described the six levels of automation, level 0 through level 5. Level 0 represents a vehicle entirely controlled by humans, and level 5 cars are fully autonomous and equivalent to humans in every driving scenario. The intermediate levels represent partial autonomous capabilities, ranging from basic cruise control and lane centering functionality (level 2) to being able to shift driving control to the car under certain traffic conditions (level 3) to “fully autonomous” cars designed to perform driving controls for the entire trip (level 4). Level 4 cars are not equipped to cover every driving scenario, whereas a level 5 car may not even have a steering wheel.

The future of transportation is happening right now in the United States and starting right here in the Pittsburgh region. Thanks to today’s innovators, transportation in the future will be cleaner, safer and more autonomous. To hear more about the future of the transportation and logistics, contact us. 


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