Over the past decade, numerous solutions have been proposed to fix transportation’s environmental toll: electrification, public transportation, and alternative vehicles have all been proposed as solutions. This year’s list highlights promising ideas from major players such as Tesla and Virgin, as well as lesser-known players, including ChargePoint and Cake.
For proving it’s a mass-market automaker by delivering more than 350,000 cars in 2019
Tesla proved it can compete with Big Auto when it delivered 367,500 vehicles to customers last year—more than double the number of cars it sold in the previous two years. It also opened a new factory in China, and began delivering cars to the world’s largest EV market.
2. Brightline/Virgin Trains
For revamping train travel in Florida and breaking ground on a line from L.A. to Las Vegas
Brightline/Virgin Trains currently operates a rail line that connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, and this year began work on an expansion to Orlando. With plans for more trains in Las Vegas and Southern California, it’s poised to be the first new privately held passenger rail system to in the United States in 100 years.
For helping Boston, Austin, and Baltimore plan, schedule, and optimize public bus routes
This software company helps cities optimize public transit systems through data analysis. It works with more than 60 city transportation networks around the world, including in Boston, Austin, San Antonio, San Jose, and Baltimore.
For completing more than 70,000 paid autonomous car rides with Lyft
A leader in autonomous driving, in 2019 Aptiv completed more than 70,000 paid autonomous rides in Las Vegas via the company’s partnership with Lyft. In late September, Hyundai announced it would invest $1.6 billion in a joint venture with Aptiv to develop self-driving-vehicle technologies.
For letting drivers “roam” anywhere in its network of 100,000 EV charging stations
ChargePoint is the largest network of electric vehicle charging stations in the world. It passed the milestone of 100,000 charging locations in September. (By contrast, Tesla has about 1,800.) It’s done so largely through business-model innovations such as bringing the idea of roaming—agreements that are common among wireless carriers so that you’re never without service—to different EV charging networks. In September, the company debuted its ChargePoint Home Flex charger, so named because it lets users adjust the amperage to match their home’s electrical capabilities (or, for example, adjust for needs to a faster charge in less time) via ChargePoint’s app.
6. Kodiak Robotics
For autonomously driving freight loads from Dallas to Houston
Venture-backed startup Kodiak Robotics develops autonomous technology for the long-haul trucking industry. Founded in April 2018, the company began autonomously moving freight for customers between Dallas and Houston in the summer of 2019.
For bringing order to Detroit, Charlotte, and Omaha after electric scooter invasions
Passport helps cities manage traffic infrastructure and integrate new transportation services through APIs and advanced technology. In 2019, it partnered with Detroit, Charlotte, and Omaha to bring order to their notoriously messy shared scooter services, and worked with Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on digitizing its parking infrastructure.
For paying truck drivers annual salaries and pushing the industry to more reasonable work-life standards
Refrigerated freight specialist ShipEx offers drivers a regular salary with bonuses—an unusual pay structure for the industry, which typically pays truckers per mile (a practice that can result in drivers losing out if they get stuck in traffic or inclement weather). ShipEx’s policy offers more consistency in pay and flexibility in schedules, and discourages bad practices, such as driving tired, by guaranteeing drivers will get paid the same amount, no matter how long a particular haul takes.
For designing off-road and street-legal electric motorcycles bikers want to ride
In 2019, Swedish electric bike maker Cake released its first street-legal electric bike, the Kalk&. The lightweight, silent bike costs $14,000, can reach up to 56 mph, and can run for three hours on a single charge.
10. LM Industries
For 3D-printing low-speed, self-driving cars that passed safety crash tests
LM Industries’ Olli is a 3D-printed, low-speed shuttle that drives itself. In 2019, LM began testing its vehicles on public roads in National Harbor, Maryland, after successfully crash-testing the vehicle and passing safety tests.
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