How will social trends impact transport?

A new report focuses on identifying trends that can cause radical change in the relationship between the transport system and society.

This report has been written as part of the preliminary work for the Norwegian National Transport Plan 2022 – 2033.

Digitalisation and increased awareness of climate change and the environmental impact of the transport sector are singled out as the societal trends that have the highest probability of creating a new and different transport sector.

Young woman using a smartphone.

Photo: Shutterstock

The trends selected in this analysis include:

  • Globalization, which we primarily see as increased intensity in the interaction between individuals at global level.
  • Growing and aging population, which is describing how the population is changing over time.
  • Economic growth, which is a result of an expectation of increased productivity and increasing division of labour.
  • Urbanization, which is a reflection of the increasing share of the population living in urban areas.
  • Digitalization, which as a trend is a sum of new technologies available through progress in digital technology and infrastructure.
  • Increased labour mobility, increase in the number of tasks that can be provided independent of time and place.
  • Improved transport systems, ever decreasing disutility from transport as a result of incremental increases in infrastructure quality and technology.

A complicating factor in studying and analysing different transition pathways is that the trends and technologies are correlated. Each trend, or technology, when analysed on its own have a very limited impact on the sociotechnical regime. However, as these trends and technologies are evolving in parallel they form more complex causal relations and can together result in a radically different regime.

Impact on the transport system

This report concludes that neither of the trends, technologies or new business models, discussed will affect the transport system significantly by its own and in the short term. The expectation is rather that these trends and technologies together will have a great impact, resulting in complex chains of events and societal changes in the medium to long term. The authors find that the combination of increased environmental awareness and digitalization has the potential to change the regime.

The report is written in Norwegian, but you can find an English summary here:
Transport sector innovation and societal changes. TØI Report 1641/2018. Authors: Jørgen Aarhaug, Tale Ørving and Niels Buus Kristensen

Full report (in Norwegian):
Samfunnstrender og ny teknologi: perspektiver for fremtidens transportsystem.

Niels Buus KristensenNiels Buus Kristensen
Institute of Transport Economics (TØI), Norway


Tale ØvringTale Ørving
Institute of Transport Economics (TØI), Norway


Jørgen AarhaugJørgen Aarhaug
Institute of Transport Economics (TØI), Norway




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