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April 11, 2011 3:26 PM

We Must Prioritize Virtual Transportation Over Physical

Reading headlines this morning about $5 a gallon gasoline being on the horizon awoke in me a renewed sense of urgency towards our transition from physical to virtual transportation of goods and people.

As a society and an economy we've taken for granted how relatively inexpensive it is to transport goods and people over distances large and small. Yet as the cost of fuel rises it shifts the economics of anything that relies on access to cheap physical transportation, from moving goods, to maintaining a city, to conducting business.

While some frame the benefits of virtual transportation--which includes things like online movies instead of DVDs, automated sensor networks, and virtual meetings--in terms of how it replaces the need for the costly physical transportation of goods and people, I think it actually goes a step further.

I believe that virtual transportation isn't just a nice-to-have complement to physical transportation. And virtual transportation doesn't only provide opportunities to introduce new efficiencies into existing ways of doing business.

In the face of ever-rising fuel prices, I see fully embracing virtual transportation as an absolute necessity if we want to able to maintain our quality of life and not have to make tremendous sacrifices as the cost of physical transportation increases.

When the cost of fuel rises so too ultimately will the cost of physical forms of media. Governments facing ever tighter budgets will have to make decisions about what maintenance to pay for or not. And businesses may need to limit the face-to-face meetings they have to lower their transportation budgets.

Yet we don't have to sacrifice even as fuel costs go up if we take advantage of all that virtual transportation has to offer in terms of replacing the need for physical transportation. We'll still be able to access all the media we want and more, we'll have smarter cities that can maintain themselves, and we'll be able to conduct business without limitations, all made possible by various forms of virtual transportation.

But the only way that'll happen is if we stop talking about virtual transportation as a nice idea in theory and start putting these ideas into action en masse across our society.

Let's build on the early successes already being realized and start putting a greater emphasis on making virtual transportation a national priority.

Because doing so won't just be good for the environment and our pocket books, it'll also help us preserve our quality of life in the face of mounting fuel costs.

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