Transportation research companies received a total of $5.7 billion in venture investments in 2014, eclipsing the combined 2012 and 2013 totals by more than double, according to Forbes. Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, Brook Porter, Michael Linse and Zach Barasz—investors with the Green Growth Fund at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers—believe that six trends will continue to push transportation innovation:
Autonomous vehicles: One of the highest-profile endeavors in recent years, automated-vehicle technology continues to grow in capability while slowly declining in price. The authors cite Google’s 2014 release of a LiDAR laser sensor system at one-tenth the original price of $70,000.
Connected vehicles: Connecting cars on the roadway through data sharing remains a high priority for automakers and consumers alike, as AT&T reportedly added more car data subscribers than smartphone or tablet subscribers in the third quarter of 2014.
“Collaborative consumption”: Even as technology improves, fewer people are driving, with utilization in the global auto market—a $20 trillion asset class, according to Porter, Linse and Barasz—at just 4-5%. They credit ridesharing services like Uber and ZipCar with the changing dynamic.
Electric drivetrain: These high-performing, energy-efficient engines are seeing greater deployment in public transportation as well as electric vehicles.
Multimodal integration: Data usage will continue to have a major impact on public transportation too, according to Porter, Linse and Barasz. Examples include crowdsourced transit data and mobile ticketing.
New automotive manufacturing technologies: The authors expect things like lighter-weight materials and 3-D printing to continue to revolutionize the ways vehicles are built and travel.