2021 Transportation Predictions | Onlia

2021 Transportation Predictions

We take a look into our crystal ball to see what's to come in the new year.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
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Welcome back to the Dispatch, Onlia's monthly dive into the intersection of transportation, tech, and everything else you need to know about safety. Hosted by Alex Kelly, Onlia's road safety expert, we're kicking off 2021 with predictions for the year, as well as a report of new players in the self-driving car world, an actual dumpster fire, and a look at how driving is going to the dogs. 

2021 Predictions  

As the clock rolled over to the new decade, many of us were left wondering – would this be the fresh start we all so desperately hoped for after the chaos of 2020? In the transportation world, expect less "new year, new you" and more "adjusting to the new status quo." One of the hardest hit industries, transportation has weathered the COVID-19 storm with decreased ridership, urban exoduses, and a loss of the traditional commute as workforces go digital. 

We have come a long way, no doubt. 365 days ago, mask use was an abstract thought most often assigned to hospitals. Now we swap them with ease, selecting colours, patterns, and materials just like any other accessory. Populations are becoming better at managing COVID-19 risk mitigation factors – we see hastily implemented countermeasures replaced by long-term, sustainable changes to how we work and play. 2021 represents an opportunity to look at what will stick in transportation, and how it will permanently shape our world. 

More cycling

The transportation mode of the year will be cycling, for both work and fun. Offering a host of benefits at a relatively low entry price, this solo activity experienced a resurgence for COVID-19 commuting, errands, and exercise. A related prediction? Expect to see a municipal investment into more cycling-friendly infrastructure. 

A different approach to city planning 

COVID-19 highlighted opportunities and obstacles for municipal roadways – a catalyst for serious change. Look for cities to reorganize compressed transit routes, open up new corridors for active transportation, and create more usable outdoor spaces. With car owners opting for their private rides over public transit, expect battles for space as streets are reclaimed with cycle lanes, outdoor dining areas, and bike share docking stations.

Optimized businesses 

The transportation industry will see major players streamline offerings to grab more market share while being mindful of spending. Expect big moves in touchless delivery and optimized logistics chains. Acquisitions and buyouts in 2020 set the stage for pared-down operations from some big players, like Uber, who sold off their autonomous vehicle group to competitor Aurora… but retained sizeable stakes in the new business. Streamlining, but still following the trends.

More electric vehicles 

While electric scooters and bikes are still gaining traction through municipal adoption and provincial pilot programs, expect a sizeable Canadian uptick as individuals look for efficient options to compete with transit. With some experts speculating the shared model (like that of Bird or Lime) may see some changes – such as a more COVID-19 friendly subscription service – municipalities may become more welcoming to the new transportation options. 

Government investment in transportation innovation

Think more pilot projects, testing facilities, and tinkering as all levels of government respond to the year that was 2020. Driven by various factors, this will allow governments to recoup some economic losses, shift to new purpose-built infrastructure, provide new jobs, and leverage the power (and collaborative approach) of public-private partnerships. Advancing towards innovation will open the door to new opportunities at a time when normal is anything but defined. 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Government: Decoded

The federal government has seen the writing on the wall and is doubling down on its shipping infrastructure investments. With recent announcements of millions to bolster trucking routes around shipping ports (like Montreal's) and rail corridors (like in Alberta), the government is literally paving the way for the delivery of goods. Perfect timing, as we can only hit “refresh” on the package tracking page so many times! 
 
Municipal transit agencies are glad to be prepping for a more prosperous 2021. After 2020's dismal ridership, any growth is positive, and the end of 2020 saw service levels at 87% of pre-COVID-19 levels. While ridership was still hovering at an average of 40%, transit forecasters are optimistic about municipal agencies' ability to stay online. 

When more are flocking to the streets to walk, run, cycle or scoot, the City of Toronto is polishing up its Vision Zero road safety plan. Amongst the updates adopted by council? Banning red light turns at intersections, amping up the number of community safety zones, and decreasing speed limits in specific city corridors. No matter how you're getting around the city, make sure you know the rules of the road before heading out.

Newsworthy

While 2020 felt like a bit of a dumpster fire, it actually had a bit of one too: a tractor-trailer full of garbage ignited on a Toronto highway in December. While various news sources remain confused about why the tractor-trailer was hauling garbage in the first place, 2020 has taught us that sometimes you just can't question these sorts of things. 

In future news, early reports share Apple is officially tossing its hat into the autonomous vehicle ring. Not a surprise to anyone with an iPhone (or a pulse), Apple has been quietly developing the tech for years. Expect the car to hit the roads sometime in 2024/5, with an obvious COVID-19 timeline caveat. As is their M.O., Apple is expected to blow the competition out of the water, improving current models' vulnerabilities. One such improvement? A better battery, allowing for an extended travel range. We'll take a battery upgrade for our phones, too. 

In line with our 2021 prediction of corporate streamlining, Uber sold off its air taxi division in late 2020, crushing Jetsons-like dreams for many. While Uber maintains an interest in Joby, the start-up that purchased the air taxi division, this may mean your wait for a flight home from the grocery store might be a little bit longer. 

Transportation fails

In the fails section, we love to highlight some… interesting driving choices. 2020 gave us plenty of supersonic speeds and insane stunts, but it’s clear– transportation is going to the dogs. Recently, police officers were surprised to find a “pug-like” dog behind the wheel of a vehicle stuck in a ditch. Left alone, the pug had inadvertently put the car in motion, despite the owner's attempts to prevent the collision. This one definitely takes the cake for originality. 

Down the road

We base our predictions on current industry trends and forecasts, as well as our in-depth knowledge of the industry. We can't wait to see what will unfold in 2021– if there’s one thing that’s for sure, there will be surprises and plot twists.

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