Transport tech’s future: a first-hand report from SXSW 2022

Sven Bally, Director Digital Marketing Alpega Group, attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas to learn about the next wave of ideas shaping transportation technology.

Transport tech earns the spotlight  

SXSW 2022 was the year of the great comeback. The festival (barely) survived a year canceled (2020) and a year virtual-only (2021). This year was “hybrid” – people could attend virtually or in person – but it was good to feel the power of live meetings in sunny Austin, and meet the people behind big ideas in transport.  

Beyond the format of the conference, hybridity was a theme in the presentation topics as well. Some speakers focused on the effects of hybrid working and living, pointing out how COVID accelerated this emerging trend by 7-10 years. Hybrid lifestyles have had a major effect on consumer behaviors and shopping. That’s where the transport sector comes into play. Getting goods delivered in line with growing customer expectations puts even more pressure and responsibility on transportation.   

Past iterations of SXSW have not given much importance to transport. That has changed. COVID and its ramifications on global supply chains – with real impact on consumers – have put our industry in the spotlight.  

Getting real goods to real people, enabling a real economy.

The Metaverse was an overarching theme to SXSW’s 2022 programming. Indeed, a big part of the presentations and keynotes were about, “Meta this, Meta that.”  

Transportation in the Metaverse is easy. Getting real goods to real people, enabling a real economy, is a lot more complicated, especially in a world where:  

-Pressure for just-in-time manufacturing and delivery has increased 
-Traffic is slowly grinding trucks to a halt 
-Everyone, from consumers to corporate board members, wants to see a major ecological effort from the transportation industry 

These were the real-world concerns of attendees at the Transportation Track, where the stated focus of presentations was the influence of tech-driven innovation on transportation.    

Transportation Track takeaways  

The Transportation Track speakers acknowledged how a plethora of technologies are radically transforming transportation. Speakers highlighted tech-driven activities around innovation, security, deal-flow, freight-share, route optimization and sustainability.  

The high level of experience among the speakers reflected the importance and the exciting endeavors of the transport industry. No longer is this industry taken for granted. Instead, it’s a discussion point for leading-edge thinkers.   

…And their leading edge ideas. There was discussion about the hyperloop, autonomous (freight) vehicles, EVs, electric bicycles for parcel deliveries, personal air vehicles, last mile drone delivery and even commercial space travel.   

More down-to-earth ideas included dynamic rerouting, AI-powered freight optimization, last-mile mobility, de-costing, intelligent freight group-ment and actionable data. This list reads more like a list of conversation topics around the Alpega offices (especially with the product development team for our transportation management system). It was gratifying to hear that others in the transport tech space are doubling down on some of the same ideas Alpega is already putting into practice.  

How technology will help the transportation industry  

My key takeaway from SXSW: tech will help facilitate more equitable, sustainable transport by helping different actors work better together. With a focus on sustainability, no waste, traceability, safety and reliability, the industry wants to enhance user experience (in both B2B and B2C), by harnessing technology that brings more dynamic and resilient options.  

NFTs and blockchain are obvious choices for enhanced traceability and putting paperwork in the cloud. Better data flow (and better tech to analyze it) will create a new platform for efficient multimodal transit, offering opportunities to re-dynamize route transport. Deep learning and quantum computing will help evolve transport tech to analyze, measure and optimize, driving efficiency improvements.  

Pete Buttigeig, U.S. Secretary of Transport, summed it up nicely:  

“Safety, economic development, climate, equity and transformation are the key-ingredients for the most transformative periods we've ever seen in transportation.” 

Our industry is entering a golden age of relevance and innovation. Exciting times!   

Signing off from SXSW,  


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