Americans Express Optimism for the Future of Transportation
February 07, 2024

Technology has the potential to enhance our travel experiences throughout the surface transportation ecosystem, as well as improve safety, reliability, and equity. However, user attitudes — from reticence toward AI to the importance of sustainability — underscore the need for planning.

A new MITRE-Harris Poll on transportation found that US residents believe their transportation experience will improve in the next 10 years, with 40% saying it will get better, compared to just 23% who believe it will get worse.

"America's transportation future is at an inflection point," said Kerry Buckley, vice president, MITRE, Center for Integrated Transportation. "The decisions we make in the coming years set the course for decades to come. Though users are optimistic, that also means high expectations. We need integrated planning across federal, state, and local governments; industry; academia; and trade groups to achieve these ambitious goals."

Of the improvements respondents want to see, safety (90%) tops the list, followed by lower costs (83%), improved data privacy (79%), increased predictability (78%) and environmental sustainability (77%).

However, priorities vary among generations. Boomers (62%) rate safety as the highest priority for transportation improvements. GenXers (47%) cite cost as the top priority. For safety improvements, Millennials (22%) are most likely to say city driving should be the top priority, while Gen Z are most likely to say walking (26%), trains (13%), and buses (13%) should be the top priority.

"When looking at the future of transportation, Gen Z stands out from other generations," said Rob Jekielek, managing director, Harris Poll. "In terms of transportation priorities, 85% of Gen Z say it is important to increase environmental sustainability over the next 10 years, 11 points higher than other generations. While Gen Z is the most optimistic about the future of the transportation experience (48% Gen Z vs. 39% of others say it will get better), they are also the most skeptical about the role of AI and automation in transportation (40% vs. 27% of others say it will have a detrimental impact)."

Acceptance of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will play a significant role in determining transportation's future, the survey found. Less than half of US residents expect AI and automation to have a positive impact in the next 10 years, with nearly 30% saying the technology will be harmful.

Other key results include:

■ 40% expect to use driverless cars, taxis, ridesharing vehicles, and delivery vehicles in their lifetime, with nearly 60% expecting to use driverless taxis in urban areas.

■ Respondents in rural areas and boomers are least likely to say their transportation experience will improve.

■ 60% of respondents expect to use hybrid or electric vehicles in their lifetime, but just 12% already do.