Future of Transportation

During our trip holiday trip last December I had a bit of a revelation. (Yes, it took me a long time to finally write about it, but I haven’t really been active on the blog.) Seeing some of the recent innovations that have come to the market, made me think of where we are likely heading with personal transportation.

For some time now, I’ve been pondering about what direction our methods of transportation will take. Since my hope is that we become more symbiotic with nature and less dominant over nature, my hope has been that we return to mass transportation of people and goods. The reduction of gas-powered vehicles on the road will reduce green house gases, make life safer for pedestrians, and reduce stress of those operating the vehicles (road rage). One of the major obstacles for the reduction of personal transportation is that we love the convenience and flexibility of being able to drive ourselves anywhere whenever we choose.

But around the holidays there were a few innovations that I became aware of. First we got our first GPS and used it for our long drive down to Florida. I was impressed at how it would divert us if it got information of traffic and how it could sense if we were in the wrong lane to make our exit. It is also capable of finding the next gas station (or restaurant) when necessary. Another couple innovations have been the capability of cars to park themselves and to brake automatically if it sensed an obstacle. The capability of cars to sense and react to their immediate environment is now apparent. And lastly, electric-powered cars are finally reaching the market.

My revelation came when I wondered about combining all of these together with some additional technologies. We could soon all be ‘driving’ electric-powered cars that would drive themselves. I have seen that the technology has been present for sometime that cars could follow magnetic strips laid into the road. This along with the GPS could guide a car to it’s destination. The braking capability could keep it at the correct distances from other cars and pedestrians. And the cars could be electric powered. With all of these together, you could get in your car, type in your destination, then allow the car to proceed without worrying pretty much about anything. The technology is there that it would determine what parking options and spaces are available. It would determine if you need to recharge or refuel and where you could do it. Plus there would always be the option of taking manual control if necessary. But with my recent experience with a smartphone, it’s quite possible that people would resign themselves to allow the car to do the driving while they attend to other constructive or non-constructive activities.

Just as the car radically transformed travel, this could do the same without changing the form of the actual cars. Since the cars would be programmed to follow the speed limit, there would be no speeding. There would be no traffic accidents or collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists. Road rage would be eliminated since the cars would proceed in an orderly fashion. Though that’s assuming everyone on the road is driving an automated car. It might even eliminate traffic jams. It would free up everyone to do what they please while in a car, work, relax, or even sleep. In many ways it would be like taking an automated train.

It’s interesting since much of this sounds like some pie-in-the-sky science fiction from the 50’s, but given recent advances in technology, it doesn’t seem that too far off.

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~ by Frank on November 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “Future of Transportation”

  1. Sadly, these innovations will do little or nothing about greenhouse gases.

    1) More energy (fossil fuel) is required to make a car and deliver it to you than to drive it. So changing the fuel required to drive it has limited impact. Better not to make the car in the first place.
    2) Where does electricity come from? In most places, from coal generators. Electric cars reduce smog in urban areas because the fossil fuel is not burned on the road itself, but do not reduce the burden of greenhouse gas. In Quebec our electricity is hydro and nuclear powered, but there are still significant costs to build and install these generators, and electricity consumed here is not available to sell to our neighbors in Vermont and where it could partially displace coal-generated electricity.

    We’re doomed.

  2. Of course the best would be if we just walked to work or worked from home. But given that personal transportation is so ingrained in today’s society, I figure this would meet them halfway. On your first point, by the time that fossil fuels are scarce enough to entice people enough to clean energy cars, other forms of transportation will need to follow suit.

    Ideally we would use electric powered vehicles that are charged by electricity generated at our homes.

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