National Academies Press: OpenBook

Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 (2018)

Chapter: Research and Innovation

« Previous: Institutional and Workforce Capacity
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"Research and Innovation." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
Page 26
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"Research and Innovation." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
Page 27

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

the time to manage the more complex systems required for the infrastructure to support connected vehicles (local governments are responsible for roughly 80% of the traffic signal infrastructure required for such systems135). How can local institutional capacity be enhanced to address these tremendous challenges? 57. Funding shortfalls, the retirement of highly experienced Baby Boomers and other staffing reductions, and the inability to offer the wages demanded by high-skill workers are placing increasing pressure on government agencies to develop and retain a highly capable workforce. They are increasingly turning to private providers for transportation goods and services and high-skill support services such as IT. Contracting for services from the private sector, however, requires a new and broader set of managerial and evaluative skills for public- sector transportation planners, engineers, and managers. How do we ensure that the public sector has the expertise and skills to negotiate contracts and oversee contractors in ways that best serve the public interest? Regulatory workforces in agencies responsible for public safety and environmental protection will need to be as educated, trained, and skilled as their industry counterparts in order to understand the implications of new technologies and services and to avoid undue economic losses in protecting safety and the environment. How can public officials be better prepared and retained to regulate, and provide oversight of, private providers of transportation vehicles and services? 58. Given the growing, shifting, and increasingly diverse population of the United States, the perspectives of a variety of racial and ethnic communities are needed to inform transportation planning and decision making at all levels. How can we best attract more students and professionals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to transportation? 59. The tremendous innovations resulting from the broader application of IT and automation will also be disruptive to the workforce. What are the likely impacts of transformational technologies on transportation-related jobs over time136 and how can displaced workers best be assisted in finding meaningful and rewarding work? What are the workforce challenges associated with the nascent phases of the adoption of automation in freight transportation? How will the skills of pre-, post-, and phased-automation workforces be maintained on parallel tracks in the intermediate term? Research and Innovation Innovation has been the hallmark of the United States since its founding, driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and openness to disruptive change. Public investments in basic research have long been recognized as providing substantial economic returns.137 These investments, coupled with public investments in applied research and human capital development, intellectual property protections, venture capital, and more, have created a virtuous cycle of innovation that has driven the U.S. economy forward for generations.138 Examples abound today of transformative transportation technologies and business models that build on decades of public investments in basic research that lead to breakthroughs in electronics, IT, sensors, AI, and other areas. Public ownership and management of transportation infrastructure have a different set of incentives than those that drive private- sector innovation; these public-sector incentives inhibit risk taking and reward caution.139 Even so, steady incremental gains in infrastructure design, construction, operation, and management— identified through applied research funded by trb | transportation research board26

public agencies—have provided great benefits to the public over time. Public investment in research and human capital development has yielded many benefits and has never been as important as it is today, but whether and how it can be sustained remain open questions. 60. The remarkable degree of innovation in transportation and efforts to meet the great challenges of disruptive technological changes and climate change are resulting in myriad natural experiments across the country. How can these experiences be carefully evaluated and results disseminated to allow for broader social learning and improved service delivery? As noted above, many of the consequences of continued innovation and automation of transportation depend heavily on how people will respond and adapt to these changes, which is not always predictable. As important as human behavior is to understanding transportation and its side effects, however, only a very small share of transportation data gathering and research and development funding addresses human behavior in transportation in a rigorous or systematic fashion. Given its importance, how can greater priority be placed on data gathering and studies of travel behavior and to the public’s short- and long-term responses to transformational technologies? 61. Accelerating private product development and deployment cycles is posing new challenges. Witness the deployment of pilot autonomous vehicles into the field using machine learning to improve service and safety more rapidly and effectively than could be achieved in a lab, as well as the sweeping disruption of urban taxi markets by TNCs. Cities and states, however, are allowing experiments to go forward on public roads, potentially exposing their populations to risks to which they have not consented.140 What does the accelerating change in transportation product development and deployment portend for society more generally and the traditional research enterprise more specifically? 62. Growing demands on the transportation system and declining investments in public-sector research and development are coupled with the challenges of managing the explosion of private-sector innovations in transportation amid the strong disincentives for risk taking in the public sector. How can we build and sustain a culture of innovation in public-sector airport, highway, port, and transit infrastructure and operations; accelerate the pace of research to keep up with technological change; and move proven innovations into practice, codes, and standards more quickly? 63. With all of the innovations and changes taking place, and despite the many challenges, transportation has never been a more important or exciting field of employment and inquiry. Transportation educators and researchers at the undergraduate and graduate levels play an essential role in attracting and training the next generation of professionals. Public agencies and private companies turn to such individuals for insight and guidance, particularly in these times of deep uncertainty. However, declining public research support makes it more challenging to sustain faculty positions in transportation and keep college and university programs on the cutting edge of knowledge. How can we foster the development and retention of the teachers and researchers needed to improve society’s understanding of transportation and its ramifications and attract and develop future generations of transportation professionals? critical issues in transportation 2019 27

Next: Acknowledgments »
Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 Get This Book
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and equity issues will be included soon in

Critical Issues in Transportation 2019

. In this report, which is updated periodically by the TRB Executive Committee, a series of challenging questions are posed to explore issues and opportunities that may arise 10 to 20 years into the future. These questions, 63 in all, have been organized into 12 topic areas and provide a way to frame future areas of research, policy analysis, and debate.

Critical issues identified in this report deserve attention because of transportation’s central role in serving individuals and society. This document serves to sharpen society's collective understanding of transportation and its ramifications, while informing decisions by individual citizens and officials in both the public and private sectors. The issues have been identified and documented from a U.S. perspective, and are also common across developed nations.

Download the executive overview, Critical Issues in Transportation: Policy Snapshot and or visit from your mobile device.

On March 5, 2019, TRB and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cohosted a webinar that covered TRB’s Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 report and the 2019-2020 NTSB’s Most Wanted List. Presenters focused on issues of safety and security across all modes of transportation.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!