Emerging Transportation Technologies

Experts predict that the future of transportation will be very different than today, and they say that future is coming soon. Already, app-based ride-hailing services (think Lyft and Uber) are changing the way people get around. And self-driving cars are predicted to take over in our cities between 2025 and 2050.

These technologies and services could help us achieve our goals for a cleaner, safer, more equitable transportation system, or—if implemented haphazardly—they may instead trigger more traffic congestion, sprawl, pollution, and social inequities.

Oregon Environmental Council seeks to shape the adoption of emerging transportation technologies to ensure they reduce pollution and support other community values.

If the right policies are in place, the benefits could be great:

  • We’ll cut tailpipe emissions to zero if the vehicles are electric.
  • Few people will need to own vehicles if these technologies are affordable and augment fixed-route transit, making sure we can get the “last mile” to our destination.
  • We will be able to convert parking lots and other auto infrastructure into higher and better uses, such as affordable housing, parks, and protected bike lanes.
  • Far fewer people will be killed or injured in car crashes.
  • Goods will be moved more efficiently and sustainably.

But—if a community-informed policy framework is not in place—the opposite could occur:

  • If self-driving and ride-hailing vehicles are not electric, they will continue to pollute.
  • If they aren’t shared, they will add to traffic (this is already occurring with ride-hailing).
  • If they aren’t integrated, they will undermine public transit, as well as healthy transportation options like bicycling and walking, driving up transportation costs for those who can least afford it.
  • If they don’t pay their fair share, our roads will crumble.
  • As society continues to automate, in the transportation sector as well as others, jobs will continue to be lost.

Today, we find ourselves at a time of transportation disruption much like that at the beginning of the 20th century when the automobile was embraced without much thought to its downsides. This time we are smarter, and the nonprofit and public sector must engage with the private sector to ensure that disruptive transportation technologies:

  • are clean (i.e., electric)
  • are primarily shared, rather than used to convey a single rider
  • are integrated with public transit, adding value to the system
  • benefit everyone, including low-income residents, people of color, youth and elders, and people with disabilities
  • pay for their use of the roads
  • help meet needs of communities, as expressed by the individuals who live there
  • help support a just transition to other good-paying jobs for displaced workers

Read more about Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ principles for creating a cleaner, safer, and more equitable transportation system.

By creating the right policy framework now—before new transportation technologies are widely adopted and in partnership with communities that have not traditionally had a voice in transportation decision-making— Oregon Environmental Council will help put Oregon on the path to a zero-emission transportation future where people and goods move safely and efficiently; people of all ages, abilities and socioeconomic status have affordable and equitable access to the places they need to go; and the livability of our cities and towns is enhanced while our precious farm and forestlands are preserved.