What will transportation look like in 20 years? Will self-driving cars replace traditional automobiles? Will more people carpool or use public transportation? Will we leave a healthier environment for the next generation?
These are just a few of the questions that Donna Chen, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Virginia, tries to answer on a daily basis.
One of Donna’s areas of expertise is forecasting the future. She’s become an authority on the trends in transportation that are just over the horizon like connected and self-driving vehicles and those that are already making an impact today, like electric vehicles.
Researchers like Donna are extremely valuable to society. They ask questions about important issues that will affect us over the long term. This is especially important during times of change, such as the switch to new technologies like electric, self-driving, and connected vehicles. Imagine when automobiles were first invented; what if researchers had been able to predict that the burning of fossil fuels would contribute to climate change? Isn’t it possible that electric vehicles would have become more prominent decades ago?
Donna is studying the impact that up-and-coming technologies will have on society and the environment. For example, will the switch to self-driving cars cause people to drive more? If so, will this lead to even greater energy consumption and more congested roads? What could we do today to prevent that before it happens?
In other words, transportation researchers like Donna are people who know how to ask the right questions, and whose knowledge might even influence the course of the future.
Could you ask for a more exciting career?
Check out Donna’s video to learn more, and to hear her thoughts on some important issues relating to our transportation system. And be sure to keep following Fast Forward for more news and information on careers in transportation!