News | Dr. Miguel Jaller Examines the Reshaping Potential of the 3 Revolutions of Transportation on the Freight Industry

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by Brittany Cooper and Lehxy Pich

The mobility of people and goods has shifted as new and innovative technology transforms the transportation industry. The "Three Revolutions in Transportation" (3REV) has seen the inclusion of new technology like electric vehicles, automated and connectivity features in personal vehicles, and ubiquitous rideshare platforms that have radically altered the options available to travelers. While such changes have been seen in many sectors of the transportation industry, the freight sector has fallen behind in the process of adopting these new technologies.


Dr. Miguel Jaller, Lew Fulton, Elham Pourrahmani, and Carlos Otero recently co-authored a research report titled “Automation, Electrification, and Shared Mobility in Freight” that examines the current state of these new technologies in the freight industry, their challenges, and opportunities. Jaller is an Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis. Lew Fulton is the Director of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis, and Carlos Otero and Elham Pourrahmani are doctoral research assistants within the same department. The study was funded through a grant from the Pacific Southwest Region (PSR) University Transportation Center.


The study examines the effects of the 3REVs and its innovations on long-haul and last-mile freight distribution. Focusing on the potential barriers, challenges, and opportunities of the different innovations, as well as the market readiness of those innovations, the report also discusses “planning considerations for the advent and widespread use” of these technologies and provides policy considerations needed for their implementation. The new technology from 3REV is distinguished by three major categories: automation, electrification, and shared mobility. Examples of these technologies include electric cargo bikes, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), drones, and autonomous vans and trucks. Each of those three categories has the potential to replace traditional modes of transportation. These 3REV technologies also serve to lessen the negative effects of mobility, such as emissions, congestion, and noise pollution.


Within the report, Jaller acknowledges potential barriers in implementing 3REV’s technology, such as vehicle cost, missing research, public infrastructure, public perception of the technology, litigations and liability issues, and the potential rejection of labor unions and employees towards these new innovations. The use of these new technologies could also lead to unintended consequences in mobility safety for disabled and older populations around freight transportation, as well as detrimental effects on road conflicts, privacy, and safety. However, the report also identifies a list of different strengths that these technologies will bring to the industry, such as the substitution of light and medium-duty trucks, a clear path entering the market, affordability, versatility, efficiency, and accessibility. Such strengths in implementing 3REV technology make the benefits of this technology easily attainable. The report also highlights potential additional benefits of 3REV technology in areas such as sustainability, parking, congestion, and lowering economic cost. Altogether, these considerations have impacted the speed in which new innovations can be placed within the sector, requiring an in-depth understanding of each innovation that will produce effective regulations and policies.


The freight transportation sector is affected by various factors, such as government policies affecting freight movement, the unique context of each city, as well as the conditions necessary for specific freight transportation challenges such as avoiding right-of-way conflicts and efficient port access planning. The slow adoption of 3REV innovations in freight is explained by the relationship between 3REV technology and freight transportation, examining the necessary components to make the technology more widespread within the industry. While acknowledging there is a need for additional research and testing on the “technical feasibility of the 3REVs,” as well as no hard market date set as of now, Jaller and his colleagues remain hopeful, stating that, “The 3REVs are an exciting opportunity to reshape the way we transport goods (and people) and how the cities will look in the future.”