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A new era for the transportation sector?

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In October 2022, I had the opportunity to present some of the major disruptions that could affect the transportation sector at Transport Canada‘s annual TCNEXT summit. The event was designed to bring together Transport Canada executives involved in modernizing service delivery. I began by speaking about the impact of digital technologies on the economy and the transportation sector.

In recent years, the world has seen significant economic and social changes due to digitalization—and these changes could grow and accelerate in the coming years. Inevitably, these changes could significantly affect the transportation sector. 

Consider 3D printing and decentralized production. In my opinion, these disruptors could have considerable impacts on transportation. Decentralized production and manufacturing technologies allow products to be made close to the end consumer. 3D printing, robotic assembly, and machine learning, among others, enable on-demand production of customized goods at a hyperlocal and regional level. For example, 3D-printed boat parts or artificial organs that require specialized delivery could be manufactured on location, where they are needed. The expansion of this new model could change trade flows. It may also change consumers’ expectations of what is available to them. What if 3D printing and decentralized production fundamentally reorganized supply chains, drastically reducing the way we use existing transportation networks? 

The growing importance of software is another potential disruptor. A large number of transportation companies incorporate software into their product offerings. For instance, a car may be inspected at the factory, but once delivered to the buyer, may require software updates. These updates play increasingly important roles in reinspection and consumer product safety. As a result, software integration could become a central concern in the transportation sector, which used to rely much more on material hardware. This may also have an impact on the transition to newer vehicles and equipment, which may need maintenance or inspection in different ways. 

Transportation directly or indirectly affects all aspects of our lives. Significant disruptions to this sector could affect each of us in ways that may require careful consideration and planning.

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Simon Robertson

Simon is a public policy professional leading the Social Foresight team. Previously, he was a lawyer on Bay Street and a senior political advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministers’ Offices. A Francophone from Vancouver, Simon holds a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge, and has a healthy outsider’s skepticism. He likes hanging out with his partner and his young kids, ideally with bikes and ice cream.

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