Land Transportation of the Future
Transportation is going to be changing a lot over the next decade, so much so that our roads and rail networks could become unrecognisable! Below are some of the major projects that are taking place that could completely transform the way we travel…
“The Fifth Mode of Transport”
The majority of people will be aware of the Hyperloop by now; it has been featured in the news around the world quite a lot in the recent months. For those who are not so aware, the Hyperloop is a solar-powered transportation system that features pods which can travel at speeds of up to 700mph inside low-friction tubes. This would significantly reduce journey times for both passengers and cargo. For example, travelling from London to Glasgow in such a system, would reduce the journey time from 4 hours to just 30 minutes.
The Hyperloop is the brainchild of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who calls it “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table”. The idea of travelling in low pressure/evacuated tubes has been around for a long time now. However, Musk’s Hyperloop aims to make the enterprise economically viable. When he revealed his idea, Musk labelled it the “fifth mode of transport” alongside planes, trains, automobiles and boats.
Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and chairman of Hyperloop Technologies told CNBC during an interview that “Hyperloop will be operational, somewhere in the world, by 2020.”
Russia has said that they are ready for their own version of the Hyperloop. According to the Head of the St Petersburg Railway Innovation Development Centre Anatolyi Zaitsev, “The cost of this project by Western standards is $21bn, according to our standards, it is just about half as much, that is $12–13bn”. Russian plans include connecting St Petersburg to Moscow (400 Miles) initially to transport cargo from sea terminals.
The “Land Airbus”
A new bus called the “Land Airbus” is being trialled later this year on a test track in China. The new electric vehicle has been developed by Beijing company Transit Explore Bus and will be able to carry up to 1400 people without taking up any extra space on the road. The bus has been designed so that it straddles two lanes of traffic and allows cars up to 2m in height to travel beneath it. With the potential to replace up to 40 buses on the road, the Land Airbus could save around 2,480 tonnes of carbon emissions per year and around 800 tonnes of fuel.
In a country such as China where around 20 million extra drivers are taking to the roads each year, road space is a big issue! The introduction of a mode of transport like this could reduce the number of vehicles on the road, helping to reduce some of the horrendous traffic jams in the region which can be up to 100km in length!
Autonomous vehicles are becoming a common topic of debate, featuring in newspapers and magazines on a daily basis. New driverless technology is set to cut down on congestion and pollution, which is great news for major cities such as London.
The UK Government pledged to be at the forefront of technology for transport as part of the 2016 Queen’s Speech. Autonomous cars will be the focus of new legislation that seeks to get ordinary people buying and using driverless cars by 2020. Testing will begin in 2017, starting on small roads and then extending to motorways.
The UK has an advantage over many other European nations because the Vienna convention which states that “Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals” was never sanctioned here. As a result, the building and testing of autonomous vehicles will be easier to facilitate. In addition, London is seen as an ideal place to test driverless cars, not only because of its challenging road conditions, but also because of the UK government’s commitment to taking a leading role in the development of the technology. With this in mind, companies such as Volvo have already begun to run road tests.
A study commissioned by the trade body* found that connected and autonomous vehicles will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits to the UK. The economic gain is estimated to be in the region of £51bn/year by 2030, an additional 230,000 jobs could be created, over 2,500 lives saved and 25,000 serious accidents prevented.
In addition to the areas covered in this article, there will doubtless be many changes to planes, boats and other forms of transport. As well as cars, autonomous trucks are also being developed, and there are talks in America of having a highway exclusively for vehicles of this kind. It is an exciting and busy time for transportation at the moment and it will be interesting to see how the new modes change the way we get around.
*Please find the full report – Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – The UK Economic Opportunity