Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The future of travel: Transportation confronts its 'Kodak moment'

By Andrew Keen, for CNN
updated 11:00 PM EDT, Mon May 13, 2013
  • Transportation is set to be transformed by digital technology, says many Silicon Valley commentators
  • Industry needs to avoid being blindsided by rise in digital tech
  • Time is right for more development of self-driving cars, believes David Frigstad, chairman of Frost & Sullivan

Editor's note: CNN contributor Andrew Keen organized and hosted an invitation-only Silicon Valley event called FutureCast. A group of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and writers discussed the impact of the digital revolution on transportation. All this week CNN Business Traveller will bring you highlights from the debate. AT&T and Ericsson hosted the conference at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.

(CNN) -- Transportation is on the cusp of being radically transformed by the digital revolution. From self-driving cars to intelligent public transit systems, the future of 21st-century transportation is being mapped out right now in Silicon Valley.

At the inaugural FutureCast event in Palo Alto, 50 innovative entrepreneurs, executives, policy makers and writers were invited to discuss how online technology is transforming transportation.

The goal was to rethink travel in today's networked society and re-imagine the car, bus and train in the digital age.

For David Frigstad, Chairman of consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan, transportation is reaching what its "Kodak Moment."

How the self-driving car changes everything
The future of transportation: Global View

He was referring to the way in which the photography company Kodak was catastrophically blindsided by the digital revolution in photography. This moment is every traditional CEO's worst nightmare.

But, as Frigstad explained at the discussion, the disruption of today's network economy, which will enable vehicle sharing start-ups, might actually be good news for the rest of us.

"To have 100 billion cars on the planet that aren't being used is a total waste of materials, gas, petrol, metals," Frigstad explained.

Technology author Larry Downes also stated that a change in the industry is necessary.

"We can't go on as we have," he said. "We are running out of fuel; the current set of technologies we have are reaching a natural limit."

Then there's the impact of the self-driving car, which has the potential to radically reduce car crashes.

"We are looking at 100,000 deaths on the planet every year from automobile accidents, almost half a trillion dollars in damages," Frigstad said in support of safer, computerized self-driving vehicles.

Many of the other participants at FutureCast -- who included executives from General Motors, Tesla, Sidecar, American Airlines and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency -- agreed with Frigstad's dramatic vision.

John Markoff, The New York Times' technology journalist, even compared today's situation to the historic transition from the mainframe to the personal computer.

"If we only need 20% of the cars we have," Markoff noted. "There are some really disruptive things that are going to happen."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Don't surprise Germans and stick to the agenda in Japan. What international road warriors need to know.
updated 1:33 AM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Eurostar, the high-speed train company connecting London with Brussels and Paris, has just upped its game.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Japan is set to make its mark in the skies with its first new commercial jet for over 50 years, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, aka the MRJ.
updated 1:16 AM EDT, Sat October 4, 2014
Think hotels are deliberately blocking your personal Wi-Fi networks so you'll buy theirs?
updated 1:49 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
How would you like to trim three hours off the current commercial jet flight time between Paris and Washington, D.C.?
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
It's been a big week for makeovers in the world of aviation.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Aviation isn't known as the most eco-friendly industry; running an airline produces an incredible amount of waste. But some are doing something about it.
updated 11:14 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Airports aren't exactly stress-free zones, but drones, tracking and virtual reality could help make them better places.
updated 5:06 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
In many ways, airplanes are a retailer's dream come true. They serve a captive -- often bored -- audience with a disposable income.
updated 2:35 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Takeoff on one of Airbus' new A350WXB test planes is a strangely quiet experience.