Big Cities, Big Ideas: Getting Around in the Future

According to the United Nations, Earth's population is set to increase from 7.3 billion people today to 9.7 billion people by 2050. Simultaneously, the proportion of humans who live in urban areas is expected to jump from 54 percent to 66 percent. That means the world's cities will gain an extra 2.4 billion people in the next 30 years or so.  

Most cities are unprepared for today's crowds, let alone that kind of leap. Infrastructures are overtaxed and aging, perhaps none more visibly than roads. In the short term, automated cars might actually make traffic worse as they give more people access to roadways.

So what's the solution? As the video above discusses, it may depend from city to city. Some forward thinkers propose getting transportation off the ground with raised mass transit systems like a Hyperloop, aerial cable cars or high-speed electric pods. Others see potential in our roads as they stand – just buttressed with big data from cars, mobile devices, traffic signs, nearby buildings and even the pavement itself.

These concepts were a huge part of the conversation at SXSW Interactive 2016 – the three arms of the annual South by Southwest festival inject some 100,000 people into downtown Austin, Texas, each spring. It's a microcosm of the problem we're all set to face going forward. (Hopefully the future will also involve a lot of tacos.) Bandages like Lyft and Uber won't hold forever. What do you want to see your local urban center build?