Transportation is embarking on a new and exciting era.
Younger than 40? It is pretty safe to say that within your lifetime you will own a vehicle that can drive itself. Within the next 15 or 20 years you will likely make your first trip in a shared taxi with nobody in the driver’s seat. Within the next decade or so there will be connected vehicles all over the road and cars will communicate with each other and with roadside devices. There will be fewer crashes, and traffic will flow more efficiently. And as you read this article, there are already vehicles on the road that can swerve to avoid collisions, self-park, and run on electric power.
Go back in time a few decades and these innovations would have seemed like nothing more than science fiction. Go back even further and they would have said the same thing about automobiles. We are on the brink of life-changing innovations that will one day seem common, just like cars do today.
And according to experts, there’s more than just new technology on the horizon. Today’s generation will also see many exciting new career options in the transportation industry as the innovations continue to unfold.
Steven Bayless is a vice president for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America). Steve is a top expert who advises industry leaders and government officials on technologies that are changing transportation. In an interview with Fast Forward, he said that students with computer or technical skills are just one group that will find career opportunities in transportation in the years to come. He explained that the transportation industry will also demand people who have business and communication skills, and who aren't afraid to dream big.
Kara Kockelman, a professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said there will also be a demand for people to make the rules and regulations governing the transportation system as it changes. This includes people who can answer interesting ethical, legal, and practical questions that will arise as vehicles become self-driving. For example, should a self-driving car swerve to avoid hitting an animal darting into the road, even if it means causing an accident?
For middle or high school students who want to be part of the industry’s future, both Steve and Kara said the opportunities will be enormous. To prepare, Steve advises students not to avoid the more technical courses like math and science. Even if you want to be a businessperson, he said, it will be important to have a general knowledge of the technologies that surround you. But he also urges tech-savvy students not to ignore classes like composition and literature that help develop their communication skills, so they can relay their ideas to the people who might wish to use them.
Whatever area you choose to go into, the future looks bright in the transportation industry.
To hear more from Steve and Kara on the future of transportation, check out these videos. And be sure to keep following Fast Forward for the latest updates on transportation industry careers!