Meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife.
That’s the what immediately popped into my head after seeing the future vision for transport released by the Ministry of Transport yesterday. The visions look about 30 years into the future and the reason for doing the work is explained as:
The Ministry of Transport is taking a whole of system, long-term view of the future of transport to help in our role as the Government’s adviser on transport. We want to stimulate wider debate and generate ideas on the possible future of New Zealand’s transport system by sharing our visions of how we think the transport system could look in the future.
The visions we are sharing are not predictions about what will happen, just what could happen.
A lot of the premise for this work seems to be the idea that we’re about to see fundamental change in transport as a result of technology. There are repeated analogies made to the level of change experienced in the early and mid-20th century with them noting how the first cars came to NZ in 1898, that by the 1930’s they were becoming more common while around 30 years later we had wide-bodied passenger jets and had landed a man on the moon.
The technological change expected over the coming three decades is primarily about making our transport system more intelligent. For example the likes of autonomous vehicles and using data to better organise trips.
The ministry have been looking at what the future holds for a while, starting last year with their work on future travel demand. From it they found that in most possible scenarios the level of personal travel – i.e. how far we collectively travel – would decline.
That work also produced this chart which is one of my favourites and shows that their previous predictions of vehicle kilometres travelled have continued to be over optimistic.
The visions released so far are not all of them but do cover off a lot of transport sphere. They note that at least one more they are working on is looking at the future of public transport and I’m taking a trip to Wellington shortly to discuss this with them.
To me the visions as shown in the slides below are a mixed bag. Some seem fairly likely such as the suggestion that we will buy mobility as a service – which is starting to happen right now as a result of companies like Uber – and that high-density urban villages will allow for more trips to be made by walking and cycling which will improve health. However other ideas seem much more fanciful such as the people will be able to commute by plane from a regional centre to a job in Auckland in the same length of time as those who live in Auckland or that we’ll have airships carting freight around.
Some ideas aren’t in the slides but in supporting documents (like this one). One that we’ve seen raised before has been that we turn our rail network – outside of Auckland and Wellington – into guided truckways occupied by trucks platooning together.
The challenge with these road trains is they will probably require dedicated freight lanes. We think New Zealand has unique opportunities in this space. The rail network, outside of Auckland and Wellington, already provides a separated corridor that could be transformed into a high-speed freight network. The space already allocated means we can potentially be an early mover when
the right technology comes along. Imagine platooned trucks, not guided by a physical set of rails, but by a system that allows them to operate safety on narrow concrete pads on dedicated freight corridors. Imagine the productivity gains for our supply chains, and the avoided costs, by not having to extend the road network to accommodate these systems.
We are not advocating we close rail transport in New Zealand, but there may be whole new ways we could utilise existing rail networks and corridors.
Or you know we could just make trains more efficient and not have to pave all the tracks in concrete.
Here’s a couple more videos about the work, one from the MoT CEO and one from the Deputy CEO.
Have you looked through it and what are your visions for the future and do they align with the Ministry’s? Now, where are those moon colonies and how do I get to them.