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  April 26th, 2021 | Written by

Emerging Transportation Innovations to Watch out for in 2021

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  • While the emerging transportation innovations show much promise, they are only a glimpse of what's to come.
  • The better a model we can create for logistics, the sooner the AI can start learning.

As technology continues to develop, new trends emerge. While driving AI is still not advanced enough to give us fully automated vehicles, there are other trends that stand to change the transportation industry as we know it. So, to get a better understanding of where the industry is now, let’s take a look at some of the more notable trends. Here are emerging transportation innovations to watch out for in 2021.

Emerging transportation innovations

While the pandemic has impacted the transportation industry in general, the development of new technologies hasn’t slowed down at all. People have recognized that the setbacks were temporary. Some areas of transport, like medical equipment shipping, even grew due to increased needs. So, it is fair to assume that the transportation industry as a whole will continue to develop. Seeing how there are numerous innovations in electronic vehicles, eco-friendly fuels, logistic systems, and automation still in development, we cannot cover all of them. To keep a certain sense of scale, we will focus primarily on the innovations on the rise in 2021.

V2X communication

One of vehicle technology goals is that all vehicles have constant, seamless data change with their HQ. Ideally, this will include not only things like location and speed but also vehicle state, health, and fuel. While we have not yet achieved such a high level of communication, we have made significant steps toward its development.

One of those steps is the FCC ruling in November 2020 regarding V2X (vehicle-to-everything communication). To put it simply, it requires the 5.9 gigahertz band to allocate 75 megahertz for cellular V2X communication and Wi-Fi. Initially, the FCC used this band exclusively for DSRC (dedicated short-range communication) since 1999. Cellular V2X (C-V2X) is just like V2X. The only difference is that it contains two transition modes. Vehicles use the first one to communicate with other vehicles, as well as pedestrians and infrastructures. The second one enables them to connect to the cloud network. This allows drivers to get information about available parking, potential traffic issues, etc. If you want to research it more, know that the development of the 5G internet is closely connected to C-V2X.

Federal transport funding

While the private sector knows that the effects of COVID-19 are temporary, the federal government doesn’t hold such views. Due to lack of travel in 2020 and 2021, the government has decreased funding to the transportation industry. How big of an impact this will have on the overall trading industry is hard to say. After all, commercial transport is still in high demand. Still, it is hard not to notice the substantial cut to funding.

Touchless activation

Once the COVID-19 pandemic started, one of the first things we’ve learned is that the virus can spread through physical contact. Apart from people disinfecting their hands and avoiding touching, this has also motivated the transportation industry to find as many touchless alternatives as possible. As a result, we have iDetect activation, where people can wave their hand in front of a sensor instead of pressing a button.

Furthermore, FLIR and TAPCO have partnered up to provide FLIR thermal activators for all pedestrian crosswalk systems. As the name suggests, this system uses thermal activation instead of physical contact to activate crosswalk signaling. Finally, we also have infrared bollards to help those that cannot reach the alert systems with such ease. These bollards automatically scan for vulnerable road users and set the necessary systems in motion.

License plate recognition

The final notable advancement in transportation (more specifically vehicle) technology is license plate recognition. Law enforcement especially has made great use of emerging license plate technologies in 2021. AI systems can load and check a license plate within seconds. This makes checking up on suspicious vehicles, both during the drive and while stopped, much safer, faster, and efficient. Even parking fines have become automated in certain countries as police vehicles simply drive through the city and gather info via video. Once these technologies become more available, we are sure that the logistics companies will find a good use for them. But, for now, they are more than useful for law enforcement.

What the future holds for transportation

While the emerging transportation innovations show much promise, they are only a glimpse of what’s to come. Before long, we won’t be surprised that there are individual vehicles and entire fleets of fully automated transports. We will probably first see these automated vehicles in trains and ships, as there are fewer variables to keep track of there. But, as the self-driving AI progresses, we are bound to see self-driving trucks, cars, and planes. Keep in mind that it’s in AI’s nature to develop exponentially. So, once it starts advancing, it is only going to speed up over time. Therefore, if we get rudimental self-driving AI within ten years, fully automated vehicles two years after that shouldn’t be surprising.


Another trend to keep close track of is the development of logistics. More and more, logistics is becoming automated. After all, gathering and processing all necessary info for logistics far surpasses the capabilities of any human. While logistics managers simply use these systems to plan their routes, we won’t be surprised if logistics systems become better at planning. Remember, most logistics decisions are based on prior learning and predictions. So, the better a model we can create for logistics, the sooner the AI can start learning. And once it does, keep in mind the exponential development.

Fuel alternatives

When talking about emerging transportation innovations, it’s important to mention innovations in fuel and energy. While electric vehicles seemed impossible just a decade ago, Elon Musk proved everyone wrong with his Tesla company. While there are no huge updates in the industry, it is essential to note that it is growing. Eco-friendliness is, as it should be, a major concern for developed countries. With luck, we should see a general decrease in fossil fuels and an increase in greener options.


Jacob Sherman has worked in the transport industry for over 20 years, mainly helping moving companies like Zippy Shell Louisiana with logistics and planning. Now, he uses his experience to write insightful articles about the transportation industry. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking for his family and going on long hikes.