Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

EFP Brief No. 231: FreightVision Austria 2050

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The project Freight Vision Austria 2050 (FVA2050) aimed at providing a foresight study of freight transport and logistics futures in Austria by 2050. The intention was to explore the future of freight transport and logistics in particular, looking at technological progress and future innovation opportunities. A second aim was to outline a shared vision of an Austrian freight transport system by 2050 that would achieve European as well as national environmental and transport policy targets. The project FVA2050 was structured similarly to the European project FreightVision Europe (FVE 2050). FVA2050 was commissioned by the innovation section of the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology. The objective was to set priorities and give a synopsis of key technologies and future innovation opportunities.

Coping with Increasing Demand for Freight Transport

Similar to economic growth, demand for freight transport in Europe is expected to double by 2050. As integration of the European internal market progresses and Europe represents one of the most competitive economic regions of the world, export industries all over Europe are expected to grow. This will particularly concern small, export-oriented national economies at the centre of Europe, such as Austria, which are strongly affected by freight transportation. Experts estimate that freight transport will increase across all transport modes.

Rising pressure on infrastructure capacity, an increasing environmental burden and upcoming conflicts over failing to achieve CO2 emission and noise reduction targets are likely. However, from a regional perspective, increase in transport demand might not affect the overall transport network in Austria apart from the main traffic axes. FVA2050 was informed by the general vision of the European Commission for a most competitive and sustainable transport system in Europe. This includes “growing transport and supporting mobility while reaching the 60% CO2 reduction target” (European Commission 2011, p.5). However, priorities from a regional perspective may differ from those defined at the European level. Other environmental policy targets, such as particulate matter or noise and vibration reduction, can be considered equally important.

Most freight transport in ton/kilometres is regional and not long distance freight transport. From a regional perspective, future scenarios revolving around reregionalisation are thus more feasible than scenarios based on internal market integration and globalisation. From a regional point of view, traffic congestion is a problem of infrastructure bottlenecks and not of the overall European transport network. The main challenge here is to coordinate environmental and transport-related policy targets across different policy levels and policy areas.

Stakeholder and Expert-driven Approach

The FVA 2050 project pursued an expert-driven, forwardlooking approach. Stakeholders and experts from different areas relevant to freight transport in Austria participated. Among them, in particular, demand-side actors from transport and logistics companies, but also researchers, NGOs and public administration representatives at the national and the state level (Länder). The aim of FVA 2050 was to explore possible futures of freight transport and logistics in Austria up to 2050. The participating stakeholders and experts outlined a shared vision and, in the process, blueprinted structural change in the freight transportation system to achieve the European CO2 emission targets and other transport and environmental policy objectives, such as minimising road fatalities, abating noise and particulate matter pollution and reducing congestion. Ideas and opinions on how to transform the current freight transport system towards this vision were discussed in detail, particularly ideas concerning technology and innovation pathways towards the future.

Scenarios and Socio-economic Trends and Trend Breaks

In the first workshop, the initial task was to outline framework scenarios describing possible socioeconomic futures that reflect the social and economic environment in which freight transport and logistics activities can be imagined to take place in the future. Four framework scenarios came out of this exercise: two scenarios reflecting current socio-economic trends and two scenarios taking potential trend breaks into account. Drivers, trends and trend breaks were jointly investigated. The experts drafted storylines for socioeconomic scenarios in group exercises and later developed them into coherent future stories:

· Trend scenario “Growth and liberalisation”
· Trend scenario “Growth and regulation trends”
· Trend break scenario “Oil & energy price shocks”
· Trend break scenario “Regionalisation & shrinking”

In the second foresight forum, the participants identified relevant technology and innovation pathways towards the future from a present point of view and perspective. They assessed options and obstacles of technological progress from the present to the future and opportunities for future innovations, considering the socio-technical context embedding and the socio-economic conditions shaping them. The final task of the second foresight workshop was to sketch out a shared vision of a structurally changed freight transport system for Austria that would allow to attain the different policy targets by 2050. The third foresight workshop was dedicated to further specifying the vision of a structurally changed freight transport system by 2050, including the main actions necessary to achieve it. However, in the end, the focus was mainly on technological steps towards this vision.

The main mission of FVA 2050 was to identify relevant priorities for the upcoming process of setting the national technology research agenda for research and innovation funding. A final, rather normative exercise allowed to define more radical technological steps. The incremental key technology and innovation opportunities initially identified by an explorative method were thus complemented by a range of blue-sky and out-of-the-box technology and far horizon innovation opportunities. The foresight exercise created a vision for a structurally changed Austrian freight transport system by 2050 and drafted a range of socio-economic framework scenarios.

Finally, the major outcomes were a synopsis and a prospective assessment of key technologies and future innovation opportunities up to 2050 and beyond. Around 80 experts and stakeholders of the Austrian freight transport system participated in FVA 2050, an average of 30 participants in each workshop. The foresight was implemented by a consortium of six partners: the AIT Departments Foresight & Policy Development and Mobility, the Department of Logistics at the University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria and the Department of Production Logistics Management at the University of Economics and Business in Vienna. ProgTrans AG from Switzerland delivered a transport demand outlook for 2050. Transver Gmbh delivered an environmental impact assessment referring to the transport demand trends of ProgTrans AG. Most partners had already been involved in the European funded foresight FreightVision Europe (2007–2009).

They were thus invited to propose a similar forwardlooking and foresight activity for Freight Transport and Logistics 2050 and beyond in Austria. The Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit), the two major Austrian funding agencies (FFG, AWS) and the two major national rail and road infrastructure operators (OEBB, ASFINAG) assisted the foresight. They were all involved in an advisory board.

Shift to Rail versus Electrification of Road Transport

The foresight study Freight Vision Austria 2050 was performed during three large stakeholder workshops. Most of the stakeholders participated in all three workshops, which gave the exercise a particular continuity. Prior to each workshop a discussion paper was drafted by the consortium members and distributed among the participants. This discussion paper was based on desk analyses and outcomes of the preceding workshops.

The future dialogue started with an intensive discussion of the transport demand outlook presented at the first workshop. The prognosis anticipated a doubling of freight transport demand by 2050. This growth in freight transport demand can be expected to lead to a relevant increase in transport activities across all transport modes. An increasing shift to rail transport and even a bigger increase in road transport is estimated. Inland waterway transport is expected to remain at moderate levels due to exterior infrastructure.

The transport demand outlook and the projections of freight transport activities by 2050 were discussed controversially. On the one hand, the experts agreed that a significant increase in transport could be expected to come with economic growth. On the other hand, the experts questioned the anticipated doubling of trans-European freight transport, pointing out that a return to a regionalisation of production networks and supply chains could change the trend. However, the outlook gave definite alert that freight transport is expected to increase until 2050. Particularly on the main axes, transport infrastructure capacities in Austria may not at all be prepared to accommodate such growth.

The rather controversial discussion in the beginning motivated the preparation of four distinct socio-economic framework scenarios. At first, storylines were developed and elaborated into coherent stories of potential socioeconomic futures. In a second step, the scenarios were discussed regarding their overall feasibility. For example, the scenario on growth and liberalisation was assessed as less feasible than initially expected. The experts did not perceive it to be an option to leave freight transport futures to liberal markets alone; regulation and public policy were considered just as necessary to cope with increasing freight transport demand. Thus the second trend scenario on growth and regulation was seen as more feasible than the first scenario of full market liberalisation.

The experts anticipated a future of European freight transport where the primacy of the “free movement of goods” should no longer be interpreted as free choice among all means of transport along all European transport infrastructure axes. The Zurich Process for cross-alpine freight transport (CAFT) – a cooperation between the transport ministers of the alpine member states – was an example mentioned in this context. The experts pointed out that they explicitly expect a trans-European initiative to push the road to rail shift in the future.

Rising Oil Price as Moderate Driver towards New Technologies

Even more interesting was the dialogue regarding the two trend-breaking scenarios. The first of these socioeconomic scenarios was rather similar to trend break scenarios in other transport-related foresight exercises. None of the experts rated an oil price increase as a shock event but as a moderate driver towards technological alternatives such as the electrification of road transport or alternatively fuelled vehicles. Another discussion focussed on a return of regionalisation and local production networks. Instead of more European market integration, the shrinking of the internal market was seen as a potential socioeconomic future triggered by increasing global protectionism and global economic conflicts. By comparison, in 2009, such a socio-economic framework had not at all been envisioned in FreightVision Europe 2050.

In the second foresight workshop, the discussion focussed on relevant environmental and transport policy targets for freight transport futures. It was difficult to come to a conclusion. Although there are strong trends toward harmonising environmental and transport policy targets in the European multilevel governance system, there is obviously still an open debate whether these objectives ought to be seen as a planning horizon or as guidelines for the future. Policy targets at one policy level may conflict with policy targets at other levels. The involved stakeholder and expert group decided to take European policy targets in addition to national targets as a frame of reference while addressing this frame in a rather general way based on a shared vision of how to shape the Austrian freight transport system by 2050 (structural change) by taking into account an increase in freight transport demand by 30-40% by that time.

Towards a “Network of Networks”

As the core of this foresight process, a shared vision of the Austrian freight transport system in 2050 was blueprinted. The participants illustrated their ideas and visions in a group exercise and further discussed their ideas and expectations for the future. All illustrations were integrated in a single shared vision scenario. A European transport network will be achieved by 2050. European legislation will serve to drive and harmonise environmental and transport regulations. However, a single European transport network is expected to be achieved as a network of networks with a European main axes infrastructure network at its core, but tightly connected with inter-regional, regional and urban mobility networks. Communication and information technologies will progress and allow to more closely connect these networks while allowing for many alternative mobility patterns for travelling and transporting goods. In a far-distant perspective, private sector mobility and transport might decline since European industries can be expected to more strongly revolve around knowledge-based services.

In 2050, freight transport at medium (up to 300 km) and long distance (above 300 km) will be fully intermodal, with a considerable shift to rail transport. European infrastructure axes for all transport modes will be integrated into one single corridor network. Road transport (below 300 km) will be widely electrified with large numbers of charging stations providing the necessary infrastructure. However, electrification of road transport may not be feasible for heavy duty transport. Last-mile transport will still be mainly road-based and rely on individual transport modes. Automated systems and pipe networks are expected to be deployed in urban areas.

Logistics in 2050 will be organised rather centrally under strict rules and requirements set at the European level. Third parties are going to organise logistics in crossregional or regional and urban distribution networks. Large interregional distribution centres will be established on a European scale. Tri- and bimodal hubs will be situated along the main transport corridors near manufacturing sites and will profit from information and communication concentration and renewable energy clusters (smart grids). Significantly improved freight demand management will reduce empty and half-full trips; this will include alternative modes of operation, for instance so-called milk runs for circular distribution.

Another main exercise in the foresight FVA2050 was to sketch a list of technology trends in the near (2020), medium (2035) and distant future (2050). The main areas discussed in the transport-related technology and innovation debate were:
· Intelligent transport systems
· Green freight and logistics
· Intermodal freight transportation
· Innovative infrastructure technologies

In these areas, particular technology and innovation pathways were assessed. Communication and information technologies as well as alternative vehicles and new materials were introduced as enabling technologies.

Smart Technologies to Improve Capacity, Greening and Safety

From 2020 to 2035, supply and transport chains will be further “smartened” by ICT. Information management systems will enable systems that calculate ecological impact. Between 2035 and 2050, most infrastructure and freight vehicles will be equipped with communication modules enabling real-time multimodal transport information. Autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle systems are expected to increase capacity and safety by platooning. A similar revolution like the container will provide new opportunities for intermodal transport with swap bodies to serve the European internal market. Automated harbour and hinterland transport, including vertical and horizontal loading systems, is expected to allow 24-hour operation. A European transport network will include a Europe-wide network of intermodal transport hubs. Transport infrastructure will be connected to energy infrastructure as a smart mobility/energy grid. In a distant perspective, from 2035, distributive intelligence in command and control will give rise to decentralised robot systems: smart objects, pipe networks and other simple track systems.

New Alternatives for Distances above 300 km

One of the key questions raised in FVA 2050 was if electrification of road freight transport might also be viable at medium and long distances in the future – a measure that is thought to play a significant role in achieving future European CO2 emission reduction targets. Experts believe that a shift to rail freight transport for distances above 300 km and even below 300 km for regional distribution will be a significant option in the long term. However, additional measures are required, for instance, regional rail/road distribution centres serving the first and last mile by an electric fleet. This has direct implications for future mobility and transport as well as transport-related technology and innovation policies.

Download the brief: EFP Brief No. 231_FreightVision Austria 2050.

Sources and References

COM(2011) 144: White Paper. Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system,

Seibt, C., Rath, B., Wilhelmer, D., Zajicek, J., Toplak, W., Hofmann-Porkopczyk, H., Starkl, F., Bauer, G., Stefan, K., Schmiele, J. (2012): Freight Vision Austria 2050. Final Report. AIT Report No. 42, Vienna, see

EFP Brief No. 226: Freightvision

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The project goal was to develop a long-term vision and action plan for a sustainable European long-distance freight transport system by 2050, covering both transport policy and research and technology development policy. It aimed at bringing new knowledge (e.g. on climate change), perspectives (including from outside the transport sector) and stakeholder groups into an established field. Creating channels for communication between participants from business, policy, civil society and R&D to overcome sectoral boundaries was an explicit goal from the beginning.

Adjusting Long-distance Freight Transport to Old and New Challenges

The European Union faces the challenge to ensure economic growth and cope with limited transport infrastructure as well as increasing demand for freight transport in the years and decades to come. At the same time the transport system is supposed to become sustainable with a decreasing impact on climate change.

The Freightvision foresight focuses on a subset of sustainability aspects that are currently considered the most critical ones with regard to a sustainable European transport system and have failed to meet sustainability standards so far. These aspects are greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the share of fossil fuels, road fatalities and traffic congestion. They have been addressed specifically in the mid-term review of the European Commission’s 2001 transport white paper.

The Commission’s 20-20-20 goal to reduce GHGs and fossil fuel consumption and increase the share of renewable energy sources by 2020 along with the longer-term goal to reduce GHG emissions to 80% of the 2005 baseline by 2050 are tremendous challenges for the transport sector and particularly for freight transport.

DG TREN (MOVE) reacted to the overall goal and elaborated a new white paper. The financial crises and the rapid rise in energy prices led to new perspectives. Forecasts used before were outdated and business as usual scenarios had to be reconsidered.

Aligning Freight Transport with Climate Change Mitigation

The foresight focussed on long-distance freight transport in three modes: road, rail and inland waterways. The time horizon was set to 2050 in order to take into account climate change mitigation goals and the life cycle of infrastructures. Sustainable development should be envisaged in terms of GHG/CO2 reduction, reduction of fossil fuel use, less congestion and traffic accidents (particularly on roads).

The aim to develop a vision of long-distance freight transport in 2050 was understood in two different ways: (a) in the sense of concrete targets for 2020, 2035 and 2050 and (b) as a visualisation of the future of sustainable freight transport in 2050 based on stakeholders’ expectations.

The tangible output of the project was to consist of an action plan with recommendations for transport policy as well as for research, technology and innovation policy.

Complementary Approach to Foresight

The Freightvision foresight was designed as a complementary foresight process. The process accompanied the whole project and assured that stakeholders’ expertise and perspectives were integrated into the support action.

The complementary approach genuinely combined methodology, role and task sharing to capitalise on the capabilities of transdisciplinary research, foresight expert advisory and (trans-) organisational development counselling for complex projects settings.

The project was to profit from the team’s complementary expertise on:

  • Transdisciplinary research: Expert knowledge about the transport sector as well as the socio-economic and policy issues involved here. In particular, climate-related adaptation and mitigation expertise was brought into the stakeholder fora.
  • Foresight methods and techniques: Designing tailor-made foresight processes that encompass a fully fledged foresight process with appropriate techniques for the exploratory and normative phases.
  • (Trans-)Organisational development (OD) counselling: Orchestrating knowledge flows and network building in large group settings, such as the fora.
Integrating Modelling into Deliberative Foresight Processes

In Freightvision, results from several quantitative models were fed into the participatory foresight processes. The results of energy models informed the oil price scenarios; a congestion model and a CO2 emission model were used to analyse the impacts of reduction scenarios and assess policy measures.

Because the project provided a strong quantitative evidence base and integrated different strands of evidence by involving practitioners and including scientific expertise, deliberative participation and learning in large group settings led to well-founded results.

Stakeholder participation in this case was defined as invited representatives from research, business, policy and civil society taking part in a strategic dialogue on long-term issues. The stakeholders were explicitly involved as ‘experts’ based on their practical knowledge. The expertise of participants was treated as deliberative input to shape the content and tangible results of the foresight process, leading to robust scenarios, recommended action plans, visions and background reports.

To accentuate the expert role, attendance was mainly by personal invitation. The foresight process involved more than 100 representatives from the EC, ministries of the member states, advisory councils, technology platforms & ERANETs, freight forwarders and logistics companies, infrastructure operators, industry, trade, cargo owners, vehicle technology and energy suppliers, environmental and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as trade unions.

The project intended to take a holistic approach that addressed all aspects of the future challenges, i.e. infrastructure, ITS, propulsion systems, vehicles, fuels, interoperability etc., and considered all types of criteria in the solution: research, technologies, policies and pricing. The invitations were issued so as to ensure that a balanced mix of participants represented all relevant areas and that no group of stakeholders or mode of transport was over- or underrepresented.

The Freightvision process was organised in four highly interactive stakeholder expert meetings (fora) with up to 90 participants in each one. Given the large group settings, the goal of encouraging deliberation and the network-building function of the fora, the foresight relied on an overall architecture that had to be tailored to purpose. The methods applied in the group process were borrowed from the field of organisational development (OD) research, which focuses particularly on changes in the thinking and action of stakeholders. Applying OD concepts and instruments throughout all phases of the foresight aimed to maximise interaction, collaboration, deliberation and learning among stakeholders.

The four fora took place during a 12-month period from 2009 to 2010. They were designed around participative sessions where a maximum of 10 participants were seated at a table and each table discussed specific questions under the auspices of trained moderators. The stakeholders discussed project results, refined, adjusted, integrated and assessed the work of the project consortium, and collectively developed scenarios, visions and an action plan.

Modelling was used in four cases:

  • Long-term development of energy prices were taken from the Primes and PROMETHEUS model.
  • Forecasts from the Progtrans European Transport report were used to predict transport demand.
  • The TRANS-TOOL model was used for a congestion trend forecast for 2035. Making certain assumptions for the shorter term, the model was not flexible enough to properly capture longer-term developments as it was restricted to a limited network infrastructure of roads and railways.
  • A model for long-distance freight transport emissions and energy consumption was developed by the Finnish partner, SYKE. The model helped estimate the emissions and energy consumption of future transport systems described in the business-as-usual forecast and the backcasting exercise. The model maintained flexibility in accounting for different combinations of vehicles, technologies and fuels.

The model results – although often described as “forecasts” – were never used in the sense of predictions since such forecasts are most likely to be wrong. Instead, the results were used as a basis for discussions and a means of becoming clear about dimensions and relations (e.g. the emission reduction potential of transport modes). Awareness was raised that while model assumptions have to be made explicit, they are necessary to come to a manageable amount of scenarios in the process.

Foresight Toolbox

The projects led to a fully fledged foresight process including methods and techniques such as desk research, modelling, visioning workshop, scenario development, backcasting, wild card analysis and impact assessment. Figure 1 illustrates how the methodologies and particularly how modelling was integrated into the foresight process. Modelling was a part of each step of the project. The foresight forum meetings took place after each project step, and the modelling results and other findings were used and discussed in the fora. Apart from publishing research results in detailed work package reports, more comprehensive briefing documents (management summaries) were sent out to the participants prior to the fora to make knowledge flows more effective and transparent.


Figure 1: Integrated foresight design linking fora and project steps

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Major Driver

The process resulted in three stylised projections for each of the four sustainability criteria GHG emissions, the share of fossil fuels, congestion and accidents by 2050. The project proposes a long-term vision and a robust and adaptive action plan, developed in a joint effort by the project team and relevant stakeholders, for both transport and technology policy for sustainable long-distance freight transport in Europe.

Reaching the GHG reduction targets when taken seriously will have a tremendous impact on freight transport. It became clear that the EC goals for reducing GHGs will be the most important driver of freight transport policy over the coming decades and can be expected to dominate other EU-level transport policy issues, such as congestion and accidents. Containing GHGs from road transport will require the most efforts in the process. The modelling exercise showed that, even if volume could be doubled and electricity is produced by low carbon sources, rail freight transport would only contribute to reduction targets to a rather small extent.

Visioning Quantifiable Targets

Quantifiable targets for the sustainability criteria (Tab. 1) were formulated in correspondence with the models where available. Targets were set for GHG emissions, the share of fossil fuels, congestion and accidents. Preliminary targets were assessed based on the action scenario (developed in a backcasting exercise), a conflict and feasibility analysis and a wild card analysis.

Table 1: Targets for reducing GHG emissions, the share of fossil fuels, congestion and road fatalities

Solution Strategies and Controversies

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dominates Debate on Policy Measures

GHG-reduction goals are tremendously challenging and dominated the debate about policy measures. Some of the most important conclusions were:

  • A modal shift from road to rail would have a limited effect only. The relative importance and potential remedy of shifting freight from road to rail transport was heavily discussed. Quantitative modelling showed low potential for increasing the currently relative small portion of rail traffic substantially.
  • Gigaliners, praised by some as highly efficient, can play only a small role in reducing GHG emissions effectively.
  • Road transport is the main producer of GHG emissions and demands substantial action.
Solutions for GHG Reduction in Freight Transport

The normative part of the foresight produced 36 measures related to road transport, rail transport, inland waterways and maritime transport, supply chain, energy supply and vehicle suppliers. Some of the most important solutions for the reduction of GHG based on the SYKE model were:

  • Improved aerodynamics of trucks was identified as a very effective technological measure although existing norms hinder the dissemination of such improvements in road transport.
  • More efficient logistics has to contribute 25% to GHG reduction if targets are to be met.
  • Electrification of long-distance road transport would be necessary to reach the required reduction targets, which is a very challenging task in the light of the present absence of appropriate technologies, particular in storing non-fossil energy for trucks.


Table 2: Key characteristics and the most effective policy actions

Transport Performance
·         Network optimisation
·         E-freight
·         Transport route planning & control
Vehicle Energy Demand
·         Aerodynamics and rolling resistance
·         Best available technologies
Low Carbon Electricity
·         CO2 labelling
·         Taxation of fossil fuels
Electric Energy in Road Transport
·         Improved batteries
·         Taxation of fossil fuels
·         Investment in road infrastructure
·         Clean vehicle technologies II – biofuels
·         Taxation of fossil fuels
Efficient Usage of Vehicles
·         Transport consolidation & cooperation
·         Training for eco-driving
·         Liberalisation of cabotage
Engine Efficiency
·         Integration of CO2 standards into HGV regulations
·         Best available technologies
Modal Split
·         ERTMS
·         Intermodal transport
·         Internalisation of external costs
Electrification of Rail
·         Electrification of rail corridors
·         CO2 labelling
·         Taxation of fossil fuels
Truck Weights & Dimensions
·         Modification of  HGV rules Weights & dimensions
·         Investment in road infrastructure
Infrastructure Capacity
·         Investment in ITS
·         Investment in road infrastructure
Transport Costs
·         Internalisation of external costs
·         Congestion charge
Fatalities per Vehicle km
·         Investment in ITS
·         Harmonised speed limits
·         Training for eco-driving
·         Enforcement of regulations


Controversial Issues Laid Open

Given the challenging but feasible reduction targets for GHGs, all of the above-mentioned policy actions would have to be implemented within a four-decade time span. Obviously, this has a number of critical implications both in terms of single actions as well from a systemic perspective.

The advantage of a large group in a foresight process is the involvement of a broad range of policymakers and stakeholders, who are key players in shaping the future. To reach a shared vision for the future is probably the most critical factor for a transition to take place. Participation of key players increases the potential to reach consensus and form new networks or link existing ones to face new challenges.

At the same time, working in large groups increases dissent. Necessary changes might threaten established positions and networks. However, carefully planning each forum can limit the threat of conflicts that might undermine the success of the foresight process.

In Freightvision, controversies between stakeholders and within the Commission went beyond what would be expected for a FP7 project that has no direct influence on formal stakeholder consultation processes. Some stakeholders of the rail mode were particularly critical as the role of rail transport in reducing GHGs turned out to be less important than expected. However, the detailed process design, its transparency and the clear communication of the results of the qualitative and quantitative research helped to keep controversies at a constructive level during the project.


Authors: Klaus Kubeczko 
Sponsors: DG TREN, FP7
Type: European – sectoral
Organizer: Austria Tech
Duration: 2008 – 2010
Budget: 4,000,000€
Time Horizon: 2050
Date of Brief: November 2012

Download: EFP Brief No. 226_Freightvision.

Sources and References

Freightvision website

Helmreich, Stephan; Keller, Hartmut (Eds.) (2011): FREIGHTVISION – Sustainable European Freight Transport 2050, Fore­­cast, Vision and Policy Recommendation. Springer Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg.

Helmreich, S., Kubeczko, K., Wilhelmer, D. and Düh, J. (2011): Foresight Process. In Helmreich, S., Keller, H. (Eds), FREIGHTVISION – Sustainable European Freight Transport 2050, Springer Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 17-32.

Schartinger, D., Holste, D., Wilhelmer, D. and Kubeczko, K. (2012): Assessing immediate learning impacts of large foresight processes. Special Issue: Foresight impact from around the world, Foresight 14(1), 41-55.

EFP Brief No. 202: Future of Super Intelligent Transport Systems

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The purpose of the exercise is to offer business people, policy makers and politicians lines of approach to determine strategy, policymaking as well as initiatives for change by presenting future visions and an accompanying agenda for the future with respect to transportation of people and goods in the Netherlands of 2040.

Integrating Socio-Economic Trends & Emerging Technologies into Mobility

Reinventing mobility is more than just “reinventing the car”. It involves the development of a new mobility paradigm and a full-scale alteration of the transport system. Mobility denotes the transportation of objects over a certain distance, in a certain environment, the movement of people, their patterns of life, work and recreation. The increasing speed at which time and place of social and commercial life takes place creates demand for new kinds, modes and scales of mobility. What will mobility look like 30 years from now?

Mechatronics, nano-electronics, interconnectivity and intelligent software will increasingly play a role in people’s daily lives. These technologies affect all societal domains and will have a great impact across all sectors of society. These developments have an enormous effect on the attitude and behaviour of human beings; interaction between technology and its users becomes an ever more crucial factor in finding solutions for problems in any domain, including mobility. Hence, implementing new technological solutions requires an integral approach from different disciplines.

Mobility Outlook for 2040

The main question of this foresight study is: why and how will the citizens of the Netherlands transport themselves and their goods 30 years from now super intelligently?

In order to answer this question, a set of four possible future visions will be defined (not necessarily conceivably probable or preferable). Each of the future visions will be accompanied by an agenda for the future. It will outline strategic questions regarding a preferred transition model. A complete system change seems inevitable and technologically attainable options will be given as well as suggestions for ‘no regret’ activities, input for future feasibility studies, and questions for further scientific research and experiments.

The target audience of this foresight study are (Dutch) business people, policy makers and politicians.

Super Intelligent: Human-Machine Interaction and Beyond

In this study, transport is considered to be a function within a society. Transport is a derived activity required to fulfil other (personal) needs like work, education, doing groceries etc. In our opinion, an integral transport system includes both the transport of people and goods. Transport can be physical but also virtual or a combination of both.

The term ‘super intelligent’ is to be interpreted not solely from a technological perspective, but also from the perspective of interaction between a machine or intelligent network, on the one side, and a human being, on the other. The challenge is to think beyond current possibilities and to consider, among others, transport systems that can regulate, manage and perform autonomously.

Dutch society, with its own set of demographics, economics, spatial planning and government, is the focus area of this study. Mobility will be addressed within and between cities as well as in rural areas, including interconnectivity between these places.

Technology as well as human behaviour and society are important aspects in this study.

Broad Assessment of Transportation Needs

The Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends (STT) organises this study, which is managed by a Project Manager with support of the STT office, under supervision of a Steering Committee. The Steering Committee monitors the progress as well as the cross-sector dependency, consistency, structure and overall logic of the project. STT foresights are based on a participatory approach with members from many different disciplines.

A broad Market Vision Group with Dutch CEOs provides its vision on challenges, acceptance and risks in bilateral talks. A Technology Vision Group analyses future technological innovations from a sector or functional domains and works towards an integrated view. A Behaviour Vision Group analyses changes in, for example, societal and behavioural attitudes and acceptance.

The results of desk research, individual interviews and the outcomes of the interactive and creative meetings of the different vision groups have resulted in four scenarios. To stimulate ideas across domains, each of the scenarios will be deliberated on by a mix of members of the Technology and Behaviour Vision Groups and some external organisations. For each scenario, we will determine the transportation needs and translate them into possible transport systems. The final future visions will be validated in an expert meeting with the members of the different vision groups and external experts.

The broad and participative setup of STT studies instigates commitment for follow-up actions already during the course of a study, not least because a cross-disciplinary and cross-company network is established.


Over 80 people from industry, knowledge institutes and government agencies are involved in this participative study. Among the participants are representatives of the following organisations:

Industry: Arcadis, Cap Gemini, Cisco, ECT, Essent, IBM, INROADS, NXP, Schiphol, Segway, Siemens, Spijkstaal, TomTom.

Knowledge institutes: Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, Next Generation Infrastructures, Rotterdam University (Hogeschool Rotterdam), Tilburg University, TNO, University of Groningen, University of Twente, VU University Amsterdam.

NGOs: ANWB, Connekt, KIVI NIRIA, Agrologistics Platform (Platform Agrologistiek).

Government agencies: Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, NL Agency.

Five Major Trends Give Input for Scenarios

This study is still in progress. Therefore the findings mentioned below are provisional.

As transport is considered a function within a society, future developments within the society are the starting point for exploring future transportation needs – notwithstanding the fact that we are aware that future technological developments will also have an impact.

Through desk research, interviews and group meetings, we have chosen several relevant (worldwide) socio-economic trends. Out of these, we have identified the following five trends as most relevant for future transportation needs for diverse future visions:

  • Urbanisation: the degree and manner of urbanisation affect the transport patterns of people and goods.
  • Demographic developments: population growth, increase in number of elderly citizens, relative decrease in number of young people –different age cohorts spend their time differently and hence have different transportation patterns.
  • Individualisation: what effect will the growing dominance of each person’s needs on (public) transport be?
  • Informatisation: informatisation changes the nature of services and the distances goods have to travel.
  • Globalisation: the distance to be covered has an impact on the transportation mode used.

These trends and their possible counterparts are input for the framework in which the four scenarios will be developed.

Framework: A Person’s Needs

Following the trends above and considering other frameworks, such as that of CPB (2010) (see references), we have defined our own framework in which a human being and his/her needs to live, work and recreate are at the core. A person’s needs, focus and preferences are the underlying thought behind the proposed framework. The two trends of individualisation and globalisation (and their possible counterparts) are set against each other to define the four future scenarios. Other relevant trends (and possible trend breaks) are used to complete the description of the four scenarios.

The degree of individualisation is believed to indicate a person’s preference for individual or collective transport of people. As for the transport of goods, it indicates the desire for more ‘tailor-made’ or more mass-produced goods and therefore the possibilities (and restrictions) in production, transportation and delivery of goods and services.

  • The degree of globalisation (geographical orientation) determines the distance that people, goods and services have to travel. With these two dimensions, participants are invited to consider two important aspects of transport: the number of items to be transported and the distance to be covered. By differentiating those two aspects, we believe the four future visions will be sufficiently distinct.

As stated before, this framework is not based on an existing model and therefore does not have a direct connection to other foresight studies or future scenario sets known to the participants. Therefore, the descriptions of the four future scenarios have to be clearly depicted and sufficiently insightful.

Scenario Set and Future Visions

The chosen framework results in the following four scenarios. The context has been sketched for each:

Individual – International: Individual Prosperity

Individuals seek after prosperity and luxury and work in casual relations for different clients. They deliver their contribution to global, virtual, shifting teams from their homes. They are not interested in the origin of products and services they consume as long as they are delivered right in time to their door and fully adjusted to their wishes.

Collective – International: Global Environmental Awareness

People live in cities. Tasks are highly divided; hence people are highly specialised in their profession. Services are the dominant work field. New technologies are maturing. Products and services are produced at the most suitable location. Government agencies worldwide have taken the lead for a healthy environment and manage the responsible use of natural resources. Companies make sure the economy runs smoothly.

Collective – Local: Strong Region

People have a regional network of acquaintances and social activities. Due to strict environmental policies, economic growth is no longer the predominant priority. Intensive reuse of natural resources and goods has restricted trade between regions. Society has shifted its focus from economic ownership to right of use. A region hosts most of the goods and facilities needed, so people see no reason to leave the area, not even for a holiday.

  • Individual – Local: Self-sufficient Unit

A worldwide crisis has triggered a dramatic shift in society. It has brought about the development of highly self-sufficient small communities, which are organised according to the principle “cradle 2 cradle”. Thanks to technological developments, habitats offer sufficient means of subsistence, and large global production flows belong to the past. Sharing knowledge globally is key to accomplishing this. Autarkic communities take up a lot of space relatively. This has resulted in ruralisation and a redevelopment of urban areas.

These scenario descriptions will be discussed by a mixed team of members from the Technological and Behavioural Vision Groups. They set the context for defining the transportation needs in each scenario and for possible (new and existing) modes of transportation to fulfil those needs. Future technological possibilities will be linked to (expected) societal issues as well as to solutions of problems. The consequences for society and its institutions, the profit sector, public sector and labour market will be analysed. Behavioural change is an ever-present aspect in all of these.

The Impact of Emerging Technologies

The participants have identified a wide range of (expected) possible technological developments. The ones believed to be most relevant to future transportation needs and possible modes of transportation are:

  • Nanotechnology
  • Biotechnology (nature as a source of inspiration, biological machines)
  • Sensor technology
  • Cognitive sciences
  • Information technology (embedded systems, network technology, artificial intelligence, ambient intelligence, self-organising systems)
  • Converging technologies
  • Energy generation, storage and distribution
  • Robotics

And to a lesser extent

  • Genetic engineering

These expected technological developments will be used to translate future transportation needs into proposed transportation systems in each of the four scenarios.

Recurring and Remarkable Ideas: How Will a ‘Cocoon Life’ Affect Future Transport Options?

During the different meetings, some ideas have recurred. Others stood out based on their ‘outside the box’ character. A selection of these ideas is listed below.

Recurring societal ideas

  • Self-organisation and self-help
  • Self-determination (deliberate individual choices)
  • Collectively individual (individuals enjoy their own choices together with others who made the same choice)
  • Local/near-home production
  • Need for social interaction remains

Recurring mobility ideas

  • Underground transport (of goods and people)
  • What you need comes to you, no need of collecting it
  • Most favourable is to use what is already there
  • Integration of activities and mobility
  • Multi-modal transportation
  • Non-travelling alternatives flourish

Remarkable ideas

  • A cocoon to live in: you carry your home along with you and connect it to your location of work or recreation
  • Relaxed and liveable city: above the ground back to nature; under the ground high-quality infrastructure
  • Disposable transport
  • Use of organic materials for transport (vehicles)

These ideas will be used to inspire and further develop the four future visions.

Assessment of Policy Options

The key issues for policy-making, the solutions required to tackle challenges and benefit from opportunities, the priorities and focus for action as well as critical factors and key players in shaping the future will be determined during the final part of this study.

STT Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends

The Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends (STT) was established in 1968 by the Royal Institute of Engineers (KIVI NIRIA). STT explores new trends and develops inspiring foresights on technology and society. For this purpose, STT provides a free space for enthusiastic stakeholders to meet and construct creative views on the future. STT aims to give publicity to its findings as a contribution to a more integrated picture of the future of society in the Netherlands and elsewhere. The results serve as starting points for new initiatives, such as national (applied) research programmes or public-private cooperation.

STT addresses industry, government, science and all other interested parties.

STT publications are highly valued in both the private and public sector.

Authors: Marie-Pauline van Voorst tot Voorst
Sponsors: STT Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends and its beneficiaries (corporate and knowledge institutes and government)
Type: Single issue, multidisciplinary
Organizer: STT Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends – Marie-Pauline van Voorst tot Voorst
Duration: 08/2010–09/2012 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2040 Date of Brief: Sept. 2011  


EFP Brief No. 202_Future of Superintelligent Transport Systems

Sources and References

CPB – Centraal Planbureau (2010), “The Netherlands of 2040”, available online at

STT organisation:

Super Intelligent Transport Systems project page: