Traffic jams and commuter congestion are the bane of many people’s lives. After all, everyone needs to get somewhere and most of us would like to cut out the tedium of travel and get to our desired destinations as quickly as possible.
It’s large metropolises that are in the greatest need of a solution to travel woes, with half of the world’s population now living in cities, as well as an additional 25 percent of workers commuting in from neighboring suburbs.
Urban sprawl, which is putting cities’ transport infrastructures under increasing strain, is also set to worsen with experts forecasting that the Earth’s population is set to increase to roughly 9.5 billion by 2050.
This unstopple urbanization leads to an increasing demand for more efficient and modern transport solutions. Many development projects are intended to help to fulfill the demands of society. Experts agree that transportation will witness a significant evolution in the coming years, which will happen at such a pace, that the technological developments of the past 100 years will pale in comparison.
One example of such progress is the Hyperloop, which proposes using air tubes to shuttle people and cargo at speeds of up to 745 mph.
Then there are unmanned flying vehicles like the evolo Volocopter, a 18-rotor multicopter, which could one day be ferrying people around the city. “We suddenly have the opportunity for drone like vehicles that could carry people from place to place. It’s just a case of increasing the size and range of the vehicle,” says Rob Enderle, technology analyst and founder of Enderle Group.
The flying vehicles like the Doc’s Delorean in “Back to the Future,” are now very real possibilities. Experts argue that motor cars could soon be consigned to museums, while we cruise through the skies in flying machines.
“The major new technology change is the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs), first on high-end cars, and then through all new vehicles, before eventually replacing all cars. This will greatly increase safety, and as deployment becomes widespread, road capacity will be increased,” explained David Levinson, author of the book “The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport.”
But how can we get faster and more efficient transport systems? According to the experts, we need a combination of broad computer control and a move from fossil fuels to electricity. These advancements would largely accomplish both goals, particularly if the remaining oil and coal-fired generating plants were replaced by cleaner and cheaper alternatives. This combination would make personal transportation faster, greener and cheaper.
It is alternative energies that will dominate among new transportation systems. Most of the projects focus on the creation of faster and more efficient transport, which use non-fossil fuels. “Much of the new technology surrounding both cars and personal flying vehicles is based around electricity as the primary fuel source. So there appears to be a solid connection between these next generation personal transportation methods and electrical power,” said Enderle.
The transport revolution is already underway and shows no signs of slowing up with dozens of projects seeking to provide a faster, more efficient and cleaner transport options.
However, futuristic vehicles seeking to conquer cities must overcome significant challenges, particularly those relating to easy access to technology and reliability, as Enderle explains: “Technology needs to get to the point where it is both reliable and affordable.”
Four vehicles that we can see in the future include the Transit Elevated Bus, the Hyperloop, self-driving pods and personal drones.
The 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo was the setting for the arrival of the Transit Elevated Bus. The vehicle, created by Chinese engineers, avoids traffic jams by driving over the top of other cars. It is expected that the first tests of this innovative form of transportation will begin in the second half of this year, in the north of China.
The Hypoerloop is a high speed transportation system for passengers and goods, which propels capsules through tubes using linear induction motors and air compressors. The train developed by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, could reach a top speed of 807 km/h with an annual capacity of 15 million passengers. The first full-scale demo of Hyperloop was held on May 10, 2016.
Self-driving pods is an advanced smart transportation system based on swarms of modular self-driving vehicles, designed in Italy. Each module can join and detach with other modules on standard city roads. When joined, they create an open, bus-like area among modules, allowing passengers to stand and walk from one module to another.
As for personal drones, German firm e-volo recently conducted the first manned flight of an 18-rotor multicopter called the Volocopter V200. The multicopter, which is operated onehandedly with a joystick, could be used as an emissionfree taxi service in the future. The Volocopter received the ‘permit-to-fly’ as an ultralight aircraft from German aviation authorities in February 2016.
Metro sat down with David Levinson, author of the book "The end of Traffic and the Future of Transport," to discuss his views on the new age of transportation.
Do you see flying cars as a real option of transportation in the near future?
No, not in the near future; I think we are decades away from widespread use. While in some ways flying cars are simpler (there is more space up there than down here, so there’s a reduced likelihood of crashing), in other ways, they are more complex, and ensuring safety and stability will require a lot of proof. The energy requirements are probably also greater, as takeoff is energy intensive.
What are the main challenges for the new ways of transportation?
Getting the technology right is the main challenge. While already automated vehicles (AVs) are safer than human drivers, there is still uncertainty. Ensuring that sensors are reliable enough and the algorithms are good enough that humans don’t need to pay attention at all is the critical turning point. The costs will come down with mass production of the sensors, and if we can remove the steering wheel and brakes from human control, we can make the car both less expensive and safer. But deployment is a gradual process. It won’t happen all at once.
How can we get faster and more efficient transport systems?
Most cities in the world do not price their roads, they are allocated as first-come, first-served. Thus we get congestion when we underprice roads. For most other goods, we charge more in peak times (think about airlines, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and even public transport). A few cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore are experimenting with road pricing, and this is an important solution to the congestion problem to better balance loads across the network.
Do you see the popularization of cleaner fuels among new transport?
I expect electric vehicles to become more common over the coming decades. We are already seeing some European countries implementing a phase out of the internal combustion engine and gasoline for environmental reasons, but we also need to keep in mind that electric vehicles are simpler and less expensive than traditional gasoline-powered cars. The main drawback has been the large battery requirements in terms of space and the cost of batteries, but energy efficiency from batteries has steadily been getting better and charging stations are more widespread. The popularity of the new Tesla, with hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for a vehicle more than a year away, indicates the popularity of such cars once they become affordable