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Strategic Growth Areas

21ST-CENTURY TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES

Along with many nations in the world, the United States is dependent on transportation to maintain its economic activity and development. Over time, U.S. infrastructure has grown in order to support this activity. But in this new era of technological change, global warming, and urban growth, our society collectively faces several new challenges. Issues recognized as major by the Transportation Research Board include:

•    RELIABILITY AND RESILIENCE. Our transportation system must improve its ability to respond to fluctuations of demand, disturbances, and economy-driven ridership growth. 

•    SAFETY. Technology and policy have significantly improved safety over the past decade, but the numbers of transportation-related deaths and injuries every year are still high.

•    ENERGY. While new technologies and paradigms appear promising, transportation’s energy footprint remains very large, and the sector’s reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable in the long term.

•    INFRASTRUCTURE. The transportation infrastructure is aging. This is not only true of physical infrastructure like bridges and roads, but also of monitoring and control infrastructure, which is essential for efficient and safe operations.

•    MOBILITY SERVICES. Mobility services offered by the public sector lag far behind the private sector. This includes services such as smartphone-based ride services and newer on-demand transit vehicles that could disrupt the mobility network in the near future.

•    RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. There has been a significant decline in R&D funding used to invent new solutions to these problems, from both the public and private sectors.

These challenges are visible at almost any scale — at the national, state, county, and city levels; in intercontinental travel; and across modes. 

ITS MEETS THE CHALLENGE

Today, we have entered a new era of transportation largely driven by technology and data. Most of the solutions to society’s greatest transportation challenges will rely on subtle combinations of science, engineering, and economics work, allied with policy and implementation. Most of these will happen in public-private partnerships, often involving government, academia, and the private sector. Together, these scenarios precisely define the ecosystem of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies. 

The Institute’s strengths are grounded in the intellectually rich community at Berkeley, which spans multiple disciplines in the fields of engineering and science, policy and planning, economics, public health, and business. Moreover, research, education, technology transfer, and information management — the four core missions of ITS defined in our 1947 charter — continue today as meaningful and impactful missions. Just as our research focus areas will evolve over the next decade as society, technology, and data tools evolve, our four core missions will continue to adapt to this changing landscape.

To address these contemporary transportation challenges, ITS has identified four strategically important growth areas that leverage the academic and research expertise that consistently rank UC Berkeley the top public university in the world: 

•    Large-Scale Data Analytics
•    Automation and Connectivity
•    Sustainable Mobility
•    Energy

These strategic growth areas enable applications that address society’s biggest challenges. Working with our robust research centers, our affiliate faculty structure, and our strong campus relationships, the Institute is positioned to do the essential work of advancing 21st-century transportation solutions.