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Global Infrastructure Investment Needs Top $50 Trillion through 2030, Offering Vast Opportunity to Engineers and Developers, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Rapidly advancing technologies will relieve some of the pressure and potential congestion caused by ever-growing automobile, truck, ship and airplane traffic.  These technologies can be grouped in three broad areas: 1) self-driving cars and trucks, 2) improved traffic control in the skies and on the roads, and 3) improvements in freight handling and tracking technologies.  Many of these advances will be based upon utilizing remote data sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) to gather data 24/7, analyze that input and make rapid changes or recommendations in order to reduce congestion, improve conditions or project supply chain needs.
Self-driving (autonomous) automobiles and trucks will be of particular benefit on today’s highly congested roads and highways.  It is relatively easy for self-driving vehicles to understand and respond to road conditions on long stretches of divided highway, with prominent striping, little or no cross-traffic and fewer impediments like stop signs and sharp turns than found on city streets.  These vehicles will be able to travel while closely spaced on highways, reducing the need for new highway construction.  They will also travel together at consistent speeds, meaning less stop and go driving.  Fully self-driving vehicles will become so advanced that they can provide passenger transportation on crowded city streets, with safety records that will far exceed those of human drivers.  The term Mobility Services is widely used to describe car-sharing strategies like ZipCar, ride-hailing systems like Uber and other alternative personal transportation systems, including bicycle sharing.
Autonomous vehicles capable of driving themselves will have very profound effects on automobile manufacturing, usage, sales and ownership patterns.  At least in dense urban environments, the result is very likely to be a large proportion of individuals who opt to use shared vehicles rather than user-owned cars.  Automobile makers are keenly aware that individual car ownership may decline over the long term.  These firms are positioning themselves to build and distribute cars best suited for the sharing economy and mobility services market.
While self-driving technology may enable cars to be spaced very close together on roadways, incredibly tight, bumper-to-bumper traffic already exists on busy streets in many of the world’s largest cities.  Variable pricing (“congestion pricing”) for toll roads, toll bridges and tunnels may be one answer, by charging vehicles, self-driving or not, much higher tolls during times of highest congestion.  This strategy gives drivers economic incentive to delay trips until hours with lighter traffic.  Cities including London, Singapore and Stockholm have been testing variable toll systems in this regard.  London instituted congestion pricing in 2003 and initially reduced traffic congestion by as much as 30%.  New York City will be the first U.S. city to impose congestion tolls upon drivers starting in 2021.  The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is considering fee amounts and how to enforce them.  Fees are expected to be $11 to $14 for cars, and around $25 for trucks, during prime business hours, and less at night and on weekends.  A congestion zone will be drawn in the city from 60th Street south to the Battery.  The city already charges fees of $2.50 for yellow taxis and $2.75 for ride hailing services such as Uber for trips that start, end or pass through Manhattan south of 96th Street (as well as $0.75 for shared carpools including UberPool and Via).  Congestion fees are set to be implemented in the second quarter of 2024.
In addition to the traffic control advantages of self-driving car technology, other advanced technologies will improve traffic efficiency at airports and on congested city streets.  Closely spaced traffic sensors in cities will alert ITS (intelligent transportation system) systems within cars and trucks in order to warn of congestion and suggest better routes.  Advanced systems will also be able to control traffic lights for better demand-based timing.
At airports, highly advanced technologies will enable air traffic control to safely space aircraft closer together, reduce delays and route airlines so they can travel more directly to destinations with less circling and less fuel burned.  Basic routing technologies such as these have already been applied to many railroad systems, greatly improving operating efficiencies.
Meanwhile, advancements in technology will improve the efficiencies of freight handling and tracking.  RFID tags are already in widespread use, enabling freight systems to electronically receive vital details about freight containers, such as contents, shipper, date shipped and intended routing.  Gathering big data from RFIDs and then analyzing that data with predictive software will enable more efficient warehousing and freight routing.  An additional boost is now widely seen from warehouse robotics, efficiently moving the right pallet or parcel to the right place with greater speed and safety., in its massive warehouses, is a world leader in this area.  Automation is rapidly being adopted in ocean shipping ports as well.
While ride dispatch services like Uber and Lyft have dramatically changed the way that consumers get local transport on-demand, such technologies will soon revolutionize freight trucking as well, including the Uber Freight system.  As the world speeds towards roughly 10 billion in global population by 2050, and the rapidly expanding global middle class buys more, consumes more, ships more and travels more, the opportunities for technology companies to fulfill these needs will spur innovation and investment on a very major scale worldwide.
Technologies for high-speed long-distance trains as well as light rail will continue to advance.  Ultra-fast Maglev trains may eventually be funded in select markets.
While various engineering associations and global think tanks have long pointed out this dire need for engineering and construction, one massive problem is constantly in the way of progress:  funding.  To begin with, governments are poor planners and savers.  While voters are faced with crowded, out-of-date airports, potholes in roads and leaks in water mains, governments rarely have amassed reserves for replacement and expansion of infrastructure.  This means that funding most often comes through borrowing via the issuance of bonds. 
Another avenue for construction, ownership and funding of infrastructure is through private companies, such as Australia’s massive Macquarie Infrastructure Company, which owns and operates such facilities as airport hangars and solar power generation plants.  Elsewhere, private company Heathrow Airport Holdings owns and operates London’s Heathrow Airport, as well as the airports at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton.  
Such projects are often funded through public-private partnerships.  Since governments have generally failed to reserve sufficient funds for future infrastructure replacement and maintenance, and there is some practical limit to how much of future needs can be filled by private companies, such partnerships may be increasingly vital to the transportation and utilities sectors.  Examples of such public-private partnerships include a deal between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District and United Water to improve the city’s sewage system and multiple new toll roads in Texas, California and Virginia.  However, government assistance is not necessarily a guarantee of financial success for private investors, and some joint projects have fallen into bankruptcy due to lower usage and toll revenue than originally forecasted.

SPOTLIGHT:  Hyperloop
A futuristic alternative to high-speed trains could be on the distant horizon thanks to a concept from Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.  His idea is to build a giant, above-ground tube atop pylons in which a 28-passenger pod would move at speeds up to 760 mph.  The solar powered pod would travel through the tube, in which fans would remove sufficient air to eliminate most of the drag that naturally slows moving objects.  Musk envisions a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which could take as little as 30 minutes to travel. 
The tube would be built along existing roads making construction and maintenance easier, and safety features would include pod wheels in case of system failure. 
Initially, Musk invited other companies to bid for building funding.  Two companies competing in this field are Virgin Hyperloop (, associated with Sir Richard Branson, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (, branded as HyperloopTT.
In late 2020, two Virgin Hyperloop employees completed an important test run on a track in Las Vegas.  The experimental pod reached 100 mph on the 500-meter track.  The company plans to build a $500 million test facility in West Virginia.
Musk indicated that he was interested in building a project himself, specifically a 29-minute route between New York City and Washington, D.C.  Boring Co., a tunnel-carving firm owned by Musk, will likely help develop the plans.  The company initially proposed projects including a tunnel connecting Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. (35 miles) and downtown Chicago with O’Hare International Airport (17 miles).  By early 2023, the Boring Co. had completed a twin-tunnel Loop system for the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and an R&D tunnel in Hawthorne, California.  Two additional projects, the Resorts World-LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center) Connector and the Vegas Loop were under construction.

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