The world's largest solar-powered boat, Turanor PlanetSolar, arrives in Paris, France, docking along the river Seine, 10 September 2013. The catamaran powered exclusively by solar energy, completed the first solar-powered trip around the world on 4 May 2012, after travelling over 60,000 km (37,282 miles) in 584 days.

Transport is not only a fundamental driver of economic activity, it is a major sector in its own right. But while transport has suffered from the economic crisis, as echoed in downturns in trade and activity generally, it could be a source of recovery too. We asked José Viegas, head of International Transport Forum, to explain. 

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Cities that want healthier populations should get them moving. In the US, where urban sprawl and personal motorised vehicle are prevalent, walking makes up only 8.6% of all trips, by far the lowest proportion in our chart.

On 7 April 2010, a light aircraft with an unusually wide wingspan took off from a small airfield in the Swiss canton of Vaud. During its one-and-a-half hour flight it reached an altitude of 1,200 metres and went through its paces of turns, approaches and landing. Unlike in the legend of Icarus, the sun did not melt this plane’s wings, but actually powered them. This was one of the world’s first solar-powered flights, and the OECD Observer caught up with one of the creators and pilots of the Solar Impulse HBSIA aircraft, Bertrand Piccard.

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Think back to the oil shocks of 1973—or even 2008: the more it costs at the petrol station, the less people are inclined to use their cars. It’s simple intuition, and many OECD governments are now using fuel taxes, in part to discourage the use of personal vehicles in favour of more environmentally friendly transport choices. A 2008 survey of households in 10 OECD countries reveals that cars are still the most popular means of getting around. The survey also explores the factors influencing how we choose to travel. Results are based on more than 10,000 responses.

As we are now beginning to see the signs of a fragile recovery, the 2010 Forum will emphasise the role that innovation must play in the future of the transport sector. Decision-makers, experts and practitioners from all modes will consider the transport systems of tomorrow, the barriers that must be overcome to get there, and the innovative technologies, policies and collaborations needed for success.

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