As a keen hobby genealogist, I have discovered ancestors of mine who were miners, agriculture labourers, watchmakers, silk winders and many other professions besides. That got me thinking about what future descendants will make of my job as an Innovation Lead in Connected Transport and Mobility.
Would they need to Google (or Google’s future equivalent) Connected Transport? Would they wonder what Mobility is? What will future generations make of transport in the early 21st century?
Back in the day
Back in the olden days of the 20th and 21st century, they used to travel through congested airports, squeeze onto crowded trains, buy separate tickets for different parts of a journey, and sit in traffic jams for hours polluting the atmosphere, wondering if and when they might arrive at their destination...how quaint!
So thinking about this, I started to consider the transport issues my ancestors faced, the biggest issue being horse poo! Streets would have been piled high in the 19th century often making roads impassable. Dust from the roads, smog and soot were the main pollutants and the main dangers of night travel were accidents on unlit poor roads and the risk of encountering highwaymen.
The roads and infrastructure in general were so bad that people tended to work near to home or would use canals instead of roads. Back in Jane Austen’s day, there were no planes, trains or cars. The word congestion probably wasn’t even invented yet.
Congestion, transport and pollution
These days congestion is usually synonymous with transport. With a growing population and ageing society, capacity and connectivity are key issues.
We are less patient than our ancestors are and far lazier in that we want everything now with as little inconvenience to us as possible. Cars and buses fill the roads; trains are often packed with many people standing. We have a variety of transport modes these days, including buses, bikes, trams, trains, planes, cars and boats. However, the pollution issues we talk about today are not about smog but particles of a different kind, nitrous oxide, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. These days pollution is caused more by burning petrochemicals than coal.
We have some electric cars but charging points are an issue as is distance capability. Travelling at night is now very much safer and some transportation providers specifically exploit the spare capacity available on our transport network in the small hours. The closest modern replacement for a highwayman is a joyrider, although less entrepreneurial!
What will the future look like?
So how will transport look in the future for our descendants? Will the transport we recognise still exist or will our great great grandchildren be able to teleport? Will cars fly or go on water? Will high-speed electric pods transport them to work? Almost certainly, capacity issues will look different, but will the air be congested with flying cars and drones? Will all transport be energy positive?
I can’t answer any of this, but to my descendants I hope we will leave a legacy of efficient services in transport, I hope the ground-breaking innovations are credited to this generation in the digital age and that the 4th Industrial Revolution is seen as pioneering in transport. I hope we have addressed the pollution issues created by our predecessors and aggravated through our own poor judgements.
Finally, my closing hope is that an Innovation Lead in Future Mobility will be a known profession for someone who made a difference in transport genealogy.
Follow Karla Jakeman on Twitter @Karla_Jakeman
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