The General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York piqued the collective imaginations of Americans and the world. The exhibit promised that in a mere 25 years, the United States would have an automated highway system offering tremendous benefits in meeting transportation objectives. In doing so, it foretold the coming of a fundamental revolution in the surface transportation of passengers and freight. And, indeed, part of this vision was realized when, in 1997, a highly publicized, fully automated highway system was demonstrated on I-15 near San Diego, largely with support from transportation agencies.
But, the sweeping revolution has yet to arrive. Why should transport system technologies which are widely perceived as beneficial, and toward which so much successful research and development has occurred, continue to elude practical implementation? This concern applies not only to such major innovations as the intelligent highways of the Futurama. Significant public and private research efforts have focused on developing technologies for transportation that could transform how transportation agencies perform their tasks and achieve their mission goals; indeed, they could even transform the very nature of those tasks and missions. Yet, the transportation system, and transportation agencies1 in particular, appear by some measures to be slow adopters of potentially valuable technologies. This is in part because being able to assess, plan for, and integrate technological change into transportation system planning and operations has proven to be difficult and elusive.