SXSW panel discusses the future of transportation

Self-driving cars, hyperloops and other transportation innovations are coming, and cities must either adapt or fall behind, panelists said at “The Future of Urban Transport” session on March 14 at the South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals.

Andrew Johnston, who runs the Austin-based transportation discussion community Energy Thought Summit, and Josh Rasmussen, CEO of electric bike maker Bolt Motorbikes, said with population growth throughout the world, cities and policy makers must plan for alternative transportation options.

Andrew Johnston (left) and Josh Rasmussen (right) discussed the future of transportation at a South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals panel March 14. Andrew Johnston (left) and Josh Rasmussen (right) discussed the future of transportation at a South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals panel March 14.[/caption]

Johnston said more areas should consider adopting what Austin and the city’s energy utility, Austin Energy, have done to encourage adoption of electric and alternative energy transportation options. The city and utility cover up to half the cost of some electric vehicle purchases, Johnston said.

“That’s a huge investment in emerging technology from a city and a local utility,” he said. “That really puts skin in the game and shows the city cares as well.”

Johnston and Rasmussen predicted, among other things, that electric vehicle sales would outpace gasoline vehicles sales by 2050.

There is a need to ensure infrastructure can support the growing demand for electric vehicles, he said.

“Electric vehicle charging stations are sort of that embodiment of what people visualize as a Smart City,” Johnston said. “This is one of the most tangible elements of what we envision for smart transportation in a smart city in the general public.”

The benefit goes beyond simply adding infrastructure, Rasmussen said. Children who see the conspicuous charging stations may begin asking questions about them, and that curiosity could be enough to put them on course to pursue engineering or another field related to transportation, he said.

“With [electric and alternative energy] infrastructure in place, we’re not just creating innovation for today,” Rasmussen said. “We’re creating innovation for the future by creating the curiosity at a young age for children all around the planet.”


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