Session one, Transportation in 2025: What's down the road.
Panel session with:
Sherry Aaholm, CIO, Cummins
Michimasa Fujino, CEO Honda Aircraft Company
Roger Harris, CRO and EVP Marketing, Amtrak
This session was packed. It seems everyone wants to know what the future of transport will be and the person everyone had questions for was the CEO of Honda Aircraft Company.
They all talked about the shift in the types of engines they are all focused on. They agree that the new engines they are making need to be more efficient and use less natural resource even in the diesel engines they are making.
When it comes to going electric, here is what they see in the future:
- A fully electric plane could be in market in 10 years, Honda has concepts they are working on but planes require so much energy that they will really only be used for short trips or in times when there isn’t high congestion in the sky. He said they don’t see it being a full solution, they see more of a hybrid approach until better technology is available.
- Cummins said the challenge with electric is that is can’t work when you need bigger, more powerful engines like in trucks going cost to cost. They are focused on being more green and finding the right fit for the right technology. Electric vehicles have a place in short trips, not the longer trips that require more power. The lack of infrastructure also plays a part in the US.
The next topic was autonomous vehicles:
- Amtrak sees it as the last mile in customer travel. They see safety as a key problem for autonomous train operation, they still need engineers on the train. For Amtrak, autonomous can play a role in getting their passengers home or to work in the last mile.
- Honda sees plane automation as something that’s more possible than in a car. So much of air travel is already automated that they could make the whole process automated, the problem is safety. It’s not something people are comfortable with yet, they don’t want to get on a flight without a pilot. However, Honda said they have the technology to be able to make a plane land at the closest airport if there is a safety concern.
- Cummins said they think autonomous is possible but the challenge is with how society feels about this new technology. They can’t see a time that vehicles will be driven on their own, but drivers will still be in the vehicle while also being able to think about what happens at the end of the journey. The role of a driver will change, they will need to know how to use technology more and they will need to focus on customer service at the end of the journey.
High-speed travel, what’s the reality?
- Honda said the idea of a supersonic jet isn’t a new idea, it started in 1996/1997. They recently started a new project to think about how to make the sonic boom issue of sonic flight and how to eliminate it. They are working on the issues to make sonic jet travel more smooth with take-off and landing too.
- Amtrak said high-speed travel is a great idea but it’s more than a decade away to get new land acquisition and reduced environmental impact to be justified and built. The next 5 years is more about making sure they use their current infrastructure and making that faster.