Transport sector in the digital era relies more and more on high end transport research. The Europeans are expecting more and more integrated and cost affordable services in all transport modes and the European transport industry strives to evolve to more novel and competitive technological products and services. But which are the contemporary key challenges for transport research in Greece, in Europe and worldwide?
Undeniably, autonomous vehicles traffic is a major challenge which will transform road traffic forever and major investments are dedicated on related research worldwide. Ensuring the combination of safe, efficient and green autonomous vehicles’ traffic is a key challenge without a single answer. The interface of autonomous vehicles with the non-motorized and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists), the tricky long transition phase with mixed traffic of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles and the battery efficiency challenges are some of the key research priorities worldwide.
In parallel to autonomous vehicles research, special focus is lately given to research on flying vehicles (Vertically Taking off and Landing Vehicles -VTOLs) adding the vertical dimension at the current road traffic with tremendous repercussions on the efficiency, the safety, and the environmental benefits and implications. European and global research aim to bringing closer road and air traffic with technically sound and gradually affordable for all solutions.
Special emphasis is also put on research for novel and innovative materials to be used in all transport modes, tailored also for extreme conditions and environments. Lighter and more resistant vehicles, trains, vessels and aircrafts is a key challenge with major repercussions on the new energy, environmental and safety footprint of the of the future transport means. Nanostructured coatings and thin films, functionally graded materials
light high-performance composites and green cars are key priority research areas expected to transform the overall performance of the transport systems of the future.
However, the greatest contemporary challenge might be the integration of transport systems into high performing, seamless and user oriented transport services. During the last decade, European research has contributed a lot on the transport services integration, however, the new digital era brings great opportunities to integrate services between all transport modes but also with all other society and economy services (health, energy, the environment, education, etc), from which the transport user can greatly benefit. Services integration for urban and interurban mobility, for intermodal transfers, for multi-modal operations, for integrated logistics can benefit greatly from the new data wealth available and upgrade significantly the performance of transport systems in Europe and worldwide.
The benefits from transport research are however optimized only through close and efficient cooperation between Research Organisations, the Industry and the Society. The Industry and the Society should exploit the research expertise and results and the Research Organisations should listen and adjust to the Industry and Society needs. The US Industry and Society give a high value on research with major investments bringing back major benefits both to the economy competitiveness and the quality of life. Europeans strive to cope with not negligible – but not always sufficient – investments, from both the public and private sectors, whereas in Greece much more effort is needed for investments and closer cooperation between researchers, the industry and the public sector.
Contribution at the HITE and HIT 8th International Conference on Transport Research on the Future of Transport – a Vision for 2030, Thessaloniki, September 2017