Transportation Technology: Where Are We Going?

By  |  June 27, 2016

The way we move is fundamentally changing. Whether commuting to work or living in a world of self-driving cars, it is inevitable that changes in technology will have a profound impact. At Tusk Ventures’ recent Transportation Technology Conference, we had the opportunity to hear from a number of innovators in this changing landscape and see the future of transportation through their eyes.

Optimizing the Urban Commute: Emerging Transportation Technology

We are always looking for more ways to get more places faster. This involves better options for personal transportation, especially in terms of commuting to work explained moderator Mitchell Moss (New York University). Uber NY’s Josh Mohrer discussed this changing demand and people’s desire to do something as easy as push a button to order a ride. This convenience is imperative for individuals looking to get places whenever they want. Justin Ginsburgh of Motivate and Citi Bike emphasized the need for convenience and affordability. Citi Bike’s bike-sharing system brings a cheaper personal transportation option and has 50,000 daily rides in New York alone.

All of this movement results in tremendous amounts of data, making decisions even more complex. Placemeter’s Florent Peyre described how companies like his help diminish the complexity by reshaping urban planning. Placemeter, which measures the flow of cars, people, and other objects on city streets through sensors, gives city governments more insight into the way we are moving and how to provide better transportation options. David Nebinski of TransitScreen added that in order for these various options to improve lives, people need to be aware that they even exist. TransitScreen fills this void by showing local travel information on screens within residential and commercial buildings, allowing individuals to compare price, wait time, and travel time of available options.

Reinventing the Wheel: The Future of Automated Driving

The way we get around will continue to evolve as more innovations are introduced to the market. Many startups are already solving a wide variety of problems associated with transportation, but as Recode’s transportation reporter Johana Bhuiyan emphasized, this entire landscape changes when autonomous vehicles are introduced into the equation. In order for this landscape to become a reality, there first needs to be autonomous vehicles themselves. Tesla Motors is focused on just that. Tesla’s Government Relations Manager Will Nicholas mexplained that while Tesla cars are not fully autonomous yet, they are “level two autonomous” and can legally do things like parking and switching lanes. Future models will allow owners to summon the vehicle and bring the vehicle to a pre-set location.

Autonomous vehicles also need third-party service providers that enable these logistics and make the ecosystem work. One company providing these types of services is ParkiFi, which makes a sensor that displays parking data and availability in real time. Ryan Sullivan (ParkiFi) pointed out how this fits nicely in a world of autonomous vehicles because even without drivers, these vehicles still need a place to park. Similar to how cabs come into the city in the morning and leave at night, there are unavoidable peak and low demand times that require access to parking information. Meter Feeder’s James Gibbs has created a municipal parking solution that addresses how expensive parking is in congested cities. With Meter Feeder, autonomous vehicles can go to less congested areas where parking is considerably cheaper.

A final piece of the puzzle is making all the logistics work together, and Pooja Dhargalkar (Luxe) says this is where companies like Luxe will help. Luxe is currently acting as an on-demand valet service, but in a world of autonomous vehicles, they will be able to manage the valet of cars by setting them up with appropriate parking structures because of the relationships they have developed.

As more transportation options become available and innovation in the space continues, there will need to be multiple components working together on the technology, business, and regulatory fronts. Having heard from the innovators leading the charge, we are excited to continue to help shape the future of transportation technology and smarter cities.