Inside Logistics

Driverless ‘pods’ could solve transport crisis

Public-private partnerships and natural gas other possible solutions, logistics experts say


October 11, 2014
by MM&D Online Staff

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana—Logistics leaders convened at the 12th annual Indiana Logistics Summit, October 7-8, to hear top executives assess the national transportation crisis and identify possible solutions, the most intriguing of which could be the general use of driverless vehicles within three to four years.

More than 350 logistics professionals heard from national experts, including retired GM executive Lawrence Burns, PhD, a major proponent of reinventing the automobile, who offered several futuristic ideas on how the transportation industry will be transformed, including smart-high ways and driverless cars, ‘pods’ and trucks.

According to Burns, companies such as Google and Mercedes have already developed prototype vehicles with extensive testing on the open road, and this shift will create many new opportunities for consumers and businesses. He also challenged attendees to “think big, start small and learn fast”.

Indiana Lt Gov Sue Ellspermann kicked off the state’s premier logistics conference by highlighting key accomplishments with Indiana infrastructure projects that are completed, underway or planned. Summit attendees also listened to national leaders, such as Burns, discuss the country’s crumbling infrastructure for road, rail, air and water modes, new transportation policy ideas and alternative fuel initiatives.

Harvard Professor Stephen Goldsmith, former Indianapolis mayor and deputy mayor of New York City, shared his thoughts on how public-private partnerships and privatization can solve major infrastructure funding challenges for all levels of government.

Mortimer Downey, former US Deputy Secretary of Transportation, updated the crowd on the progress (or lack thereof) by the U.S. Congress in addressing transportation infrastructure issues. He also discussed the changing demographics, economy, overall health of transportation system, in addition to fiscal constraints that may limit the government’s ability to upgrade infrastructure.

Many speakers identified human capital and workforce development needs as critical challenges in their industries, which echoed discussions at previous Summits. In an effort to address this concern, a “Logistics U” program was developed in recent years, which allowed nearly 100 high school students from around Indiana to come to this year’s event to learn about the opportunities available in logistics.