12 Trends That Will Drive the Future of Transport

Greener and more personalised transportation ahead – but not just yet!

May 29, 2020, Shiori Ota, Marianna Mäki-Teeri, Max Stucki

Despite the pandemic, the larger trends in the transportation industry are not going away. The need for more environmentally friendly, resilient and comfortable ways to move around will persist and reassert itself after the lockdowns have ended. 

This article was first published on Nordic Innovation House blog as a guest blog by our futurists. 

Despite the pandemic, the larger trends in the transportation industry are not going away. The need for more environmentally friendly, resilient and comfortable ways to move around will persist and reassert itself after the lockdowns have ended.

The Coronavirus, though, has put a twist on the matter. Personal means of transportation, such as cars and cycling, will briefly gain in importance as people are afraid of large crowds. In the long run, however, the winners will likely be public transport services, sharing platforms, and even robotic car operators.

The coming years will keep moulding the transport industry. During the next decade, EV sales will rise to account up to a quarter of all newly sold cars, e.g., in China and other large markets. In 10 years, autonomous vehicles will also have entered the traffic. The 2020s will change cars more than the last 50 years combined.




Our team of futurists identified the most important trends and drivers affecting the future of transport. The trends and drivers were categorised into major themes and examined by constructing a foresight radar. You can access the Future of Transport radar by signing up for a free trial of Futures Platform online solution here.

We will take a look at the probable future of transport through these four themes:

  • Alternative travelling methods: What new travelling methods will emerge?
  • Service and operating models: What kind of service and operating models will appear?
  • Urban area: How will the urban area change?
  • Highway traffic: What is the road traffic of the future like?

We selected 12 trends introduced in this article that will be among the fundamental forces shaping the Future of Transport.


Futures of Transport radar on Futures Platform
Future of Transport Radar - Powered by FuturesPlatform TM




Working from somewhere else than the office is becoming increasingly accepted due to generational change and the proliferation of reliable high-speed internet connections. At the same time, also education is moving to online platforms; university courses, and even primary school classes, are being taught over the internet. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has expedited this development.

Remote work and distance education will increasingly affect the transportation industry in the coming years. For example, car sales may drop, and traffic becomes less congested thanks to decreasing commuter numbers. Also, public transportation services may experience a decrease in demand.




A variety of bullet trains and transport capsules are currently being developed to provide unprecedented travel speeds. For example, Hyperloop is rapidly gaining traction with potential route ideas around the world.

Faster travelling options will revolutionise the way people commute between cities, which will affect real estate markets and home prices along the route. Large economic zones may emerge, comprising cities connected through rapid transportation solutions.

Leveraging the capacity of its ultra-high-speed system, hyperloop will also be able to deliver high-priority and time-critical goods such as medical supplies and food, which are highly important during crises and disasters.




Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the concept of a personalised and on-demand transportation service. While it has been negatively impacted by the pandemic with services still in its infancy, it will have a brighter prospect in the long-term responding to the needs of alternative multimodal forms of transport networks.

MaaS Global is a Finnish company leading the way for effective MaaS services by providing apps that combine public and private transport. Their MaaS software business models differ from Uber, as they do not run transport infrastructures but instead aggregate data and service deals with existing operators. This makes it much more likely for cities and nation-states to allow their entry to local markets as they may increase the efficiency of existing businesses.

In the future, MaaS apps could offer real-time information on, e.g., crowding levels, and even frequency of cleaning of public transports, to better estimate travel times and risks related to it.







Tourism and business travel have been suffering significantly due to worldwide quarantines and restrictions. The problems may not be over once the lockdowns end, however. Economic woes, rising plane ticket prices, fears of infection, the increasing popularity of domestic travel, and remote working may all contribute towards a deep and long-lasting crisis in the travel industry.

The new habits acquired during the quarantine, such as social distancing, as well as the fears that will remain, may have a lasting impact on the way we travel during vacations. Also, large events, conferences and concerts, may witness smaller visitor numbers. Business travel as well is likely to decrease, thanks to the remote working possibilities learned during the crisis.

In general, it seems that the pandemic may be pushing the world towards green stimulus investments, as the governments step in to save the economies. The possibility, that there could be a link between air pollution and coronavirus deaths, may give an additional boost to this direction.




The global proliferation of self-driving vehicles is expected to begin by 2040, and the value of products and services created from their use, including the indirect savings in both time and resources, could reach US$7 trillion by 2050.

About 55 per cent (~US$3.7 trillion) of the value created will come from on-demand transport services. After the pandemic-related emergency measures are lifted, integrated public and private mobility networks could start to grow in demand, responding to the changing needs of passenger preferences.

The passenger economy, paired with the latest technological innovations, holds the potential for a vast range of new business opportunities. Eventually, when cars start to drive autonomously, a whole new range of in-vehicle services could appear.




According to some existing visions, the future traffic is based on continually operating autonomous vehicles that only stop for recharging and servicing. This could potentially make car usage much more efficient, as currently most cars are parked 96% of the time.

The proliferation of self-driving cars and ride-sharing services can tremendously reduce the need for parking areas and free up urban space for other purposes, such as residential districts and parks.




Oslo plans to get rid of cars from its city centre, TRT World





Bike lanes that use the sunlight to glow in the dark are a reality already. However, they might become much common in the future.

The luminosity of the road's surface is created with a synthetic material that includes a substance that is able to absorb solar energy during the day and transform it into a glow at night. Luminous pathways enable better visibility without separate light or power sources. This can improve traffic safety and they can also be used to improve the visual attractiveness of streets and whole cities.

Thanks to the pandemic-created aversion towards crowded public transports, cycling might increase significantly. As the demand for building extensive cycling networks, such as bicycle highways, increases, innovative technology like luminous pathways could be incorporated into the infrastructure in many areas.




Solar technologies are developing rapidly, with new concepts and ideas constantly entering the markets. Several countries have been testing solar panels as the surface material for roads.

The Netherlands has introduced solar road paving in some locations and seeks to gather experience about its management and maintenance. The expected yield of the road is 30,000 kWh annually per 100 meters.

If feasible, solar panel roads could offer a significant boost for local renewable energy production, power the lights and smart street infrastructure, charge EVs driving on it, and melt ice and snow.




The advancement of AI is one of the key driving forces currently shaping the future of all modes of transport. As Norway and Finland have shown, autonomous ships are viable, and are expected to enter the market in the near future.

Advanced AI can calculate optimised routes and transport velocity by combining weather and sea current data. Utilising the large masses of data ships produce through their smart systems could represent the most significant leap in the shipping business since the introduction of containers.



SVAN - world’s first autonomous ferry demonstration, Rolls-Royce





Hydrogen is an ideal fuel from the environmental and climate point of view because it is pollution-free and abundantly available. Still, there are several challenges associated with using hydrogen as an energy source.

First, hydrogen does not appear in nature in an easily utilisable format. It needs to be manufactured. Currently, the manufacturing process requires a lot of electricity which is mainly produced by fossil fuels. Second, storing and transporting hydrogen can be dangerous, as the substance is explosive.

If the technological challenges can be resolved, and hydrogen becomes an economically viable option, it could revolutionise the future of transport by being used as fuel for, e.g. cars, trains, aeroplanes, and airships.




The appearance of autonomous cars will likely also bring with it a central software that monitors, and if needed, controls, the entire traffic system. Reasons for this are highly pragmatic. Various AI algorithms by different manufacturers driving the cars may conflict with each other, and meta software must exist to prevent crashes.

A software directing the traffic flows can make congestions history by efficient management and improve safety significantly. The role of AI is vital in forming an adaptive system that can take into account both the needs of humans as well as those of the transported goods.




Thus far, several tested robot cars have been automatised versions of existing models. In the future, robot vehicles will likely not be confined to the present body styles and features. An utterly new concept may emerge which blurs the boundaries between home, car, vacation home, entertainment centre, workplace, and hotel.

A passenger cabin carried by, for example, a robot drone can be moved from one transportation platform to another without the need for the passenger to exit and enter another vehicle: the cabin can travel on a railway carriage, ship, in a vacuum tube, or on an aerial vehicle.

An economy worth of billions, comparable to the present automobile industry, could form around the cabin. Also, the cabins could create a service economy based around entertainment offered in the cabins; movies, games, health services and so on.





Pop Up Next - Audi Flying Taxi Concept, UPHIGH Productions





The field of transportation is in constant flux. Monitoring the changes is essential not to fall behind.

To understand these, and other, future developments, exploring trends and tracking change drivers is essential. A good foresight tool helps you to make this effortlessly.

If you wish to explore the Future of Transport radar, you can sign up for a free trial of Futures Platform online solution here.

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