Interesting discussion had at the DfT the other day by a colleague. It was a debate on how new technology might change demand for transport. This wasn’t just about your home working and mobile communication devices but a little more futuristic. Amongst the topics was 3D printing. This is essentially an additive rather than a subtractive production process. As Wikipedia puts it: “an object is created by laying down successive layers of material” rather than an item being carved from a block of raw material with all the associated waste (which may or may not be recycled) that entails. Apparently Airbus – for example – wastes (or cannot use in the finished product) 90% of the material it buys.
The benefit for transport comes from more localised production. Less stuff travelling around the globe from places like China and more products made close to market leading to a distribution system more akin to the pre-industrialised era: a local depot, producing bespoke products, or even something in your home. It could change everything – or nothing – but it shows that we should always be checking our assumptions about the future.