What Does The Future Of Transportation On Earth Look Like?

What Does The Future Of Transportation On Earth Look Like?

It’s widely considered that future transportation technology will be entirely electrified, carbon-neutral, autonomous, and smart, propelling societies into a new era of sustainable and equitable mobility. Over the next decade, commuter trends and innovations will center around efficiency, meaning that renewable energy sources will become accessible and affordable to the public, with the specific purpose of combating pollution and congestion in cities. This will be made possible through the embracement of shared, multi-modal options that are promoted in emerging mobility-as-a-service ecosystems — including maybe even self-driving cars and flying taxis. Let’s take a closer look at what the future of the transportation sector will look like, some current and future trends and what can we expect to see happening in cities in the near future.

Current Trends Influencing The Transport Industry

The global market for Smart transportation has gone through tremendous changes in recent years, primarily due to its many vast possibilities and potential for solving a variety of urban issues. It’s predicted this growth will continue, reaching a worth of over 220 Million USD by 2026. There are currently three major concepts driving the change we’re seeing in the transport sector, all with the unified goal of progressing toward a future of clean fuels, eco-friendly transport, little to no carbon-releasing vehicles, smart energy sources and infrastructure, intelligent mobility solutions as well as transportation networks that use automation, and autonomous driving technologies.  

The electrification of the sector will play a crucial role in replacing traditional forms of oil fuels such as petrol with newer and cleaner ones such as diesel and hydrogen, along with battery-charged, electric vehicles that will contribute to less CO2 emissions being generated by the sector. Newer fuels in the form of Biogas are practically renewable and carbon neutral, and when combined with hydrogen, make for two great petrol alternatives that provide revolutionary possibilities for the future.  

It’s also expected that Smart technologies will expand into the transportation sector, so much so that they will transform the entire industry, forever changing the way data is gathered and used as well as reshaping how entire transit networks are managed. Furthermore, Autonomous vehicles will take over city streets worldwide, transporting both cargo and passengers, with much-improved safety and efficiency. Self-driving autonomous vehicle technology will aid cities in solving various urban issues such as congestion without any dependence on human interference. 

Embracing Change And Innovation In The Transportation Sector

We’re already at the frontier of a revolution in the transportation industry, with rapid changes expected to take place between now and 2030. Citizens now have more options than ever and mobility certainly looks different than it did a few decades ago. E-hailing rides, various car-sharing projects, electric vehicles (EVs), electric scooters, drones, and even autonomous buses have already been deployed and are in operation in certain parts of the world. Deliveries done by drone are set to be the next big thing and will aid in reducing congestion caused by delivery trucks as well as decrease pollution in cities while allowing residents to keep the convenience of home delivery. 

The transition to EVs is also accelerating at a rapid pace, with electric vehicles set to become the new normal, gradually replacing older and less eco-friendly vehicles. The sale of old petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030 in some parts of Europe and the world, with billions being invested into funding and supporting smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. New York has announced that sales of nearly all gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks in the state will be effectively banned by 2035. The state has declared that it will be spending about $1bn towards all types of zero-emissions vehicles over the next half a decade. 

Autonomous Cars

Self-driving, autonomous cars have moved on from being a fancy concept into becoming a reality with the assistance of technological innovations such as IoT, AI, LiDAR, and others. Preliminary attempts are being led by various organizations around the world, although it is expected that it will be some time before they are deployed widely around the world, having completed their testing trials and potential errors and issues have been resolved, as is often the case with any innovative project and technology. Companies such as Tesla (autonomous car Tesla) and Waymo are the current leaders in the self-governing upheaval of self-driving cars, having completed several pilots. Autonomous cars are expected to provide residents of cities with independence, increased safety, and convenience, leaving less room for error from human mistakes. 

Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAVs)

The application of Autonomous aerial vehicles that incorporate passenger-carrying electric vertical takeoff and landing UAVs can provide short-to-medium distance and low-altitude mobility solutions for the future of smart transportation. Although bearing some resemblance to drones, which are generally unmanned, AAVs are different in this aspect since they operate as autonomous human-carrying drones, designed to transport passengers. The standard configurations of these flying vehicles apply Vertical take-off and Landing (VTOL) through horizontal rotors, which technically require no runway. The idea is to move commuters through AAVs, freeing space from congested roadways and helping them reach their destinations on direct routes, quickly, safely, and efficiently, reducing travel time.  

Successful demonstration flights of Autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) have already commenced and show great potential for future development and integration into cities. China is a global leader in the development and manufacturing of autonomous aerial vehicles and passenger AAVs, with their revolutionary Ehang making its debut as the world’s first electric passenger-grade autonomous aerial vehicle, providing safe, environmentally friendly, and intelligent Urban Air Mobility. The concept utilizes 5G-connected air mobility, controlled through a smart city command center, and has already been deployed for service in China to assist with aerial cinematography, photography, emergency response, and surveillance.

Drones

Drone technology has certainly come a long way in recent years and is often praised for having revolutionized many industries from agriculture to the defense sector. It’s safe to say that its applications are expanding to even more sectors and industries having now progressed into the logistics and transportation sector. Many E-commerce giants have already deployed drone technology as a way of supplementing gaps in last-mile deliveries. The creation of these drones is a challenging task for manufacturers but the complete effort in research and development is going to bring drone delivery technology into reality pretty soon. 

Autonomous Trucks

Autonomous technologies have the potential to reduce the number of accidents on the road as well as improve operational efficiency in shipping companies when it comes to freight and various cargo services. Truck manufacturers around the globe are recognizing the potential for expansion in the sector and are already working on developing a range of autonomous trucks and vehicles that will improve the way goods and different cargo are being moved and delivered. Although most of these trucks are still in their trial stage, they’ve shown promising results during the initial stages of testing.  

Daimler is a company that stands as an example of this having launched 18-wheeled autonomous trucks similar to an autopilot mode in an airplane, however not entirely driverless just yet. Another Swedish-based truck manufacturing company has come up with driverless autonomous trucks that can be controlled remotely by an operator. A company in the UK is currently testing self-driving truck platoons, to decrease carbon emissions, improve safety, and promote better efficiency. 

Hoverbikes

Hoverbikes were initially inspired by Luke Skywalker’s Hoversurf S3 in the Star Wars movies, however much has changed since then. A California-based aerospace engineering firm Aerofex has successfully developed a hoverbike called Aero-X that hovers suspended over 12 feet above the ground while moving at speeds of up to 45 m.p.h. (72 km/h). The futuristic vehicle has been in development since 2008 and was originally planned for use by one person or as an unmanned drone, however, it is reported that it will be able to carry up to two people in the future. The vehicle will be powered by electricity and propelled by two horizontal fans, referred to as rotors on the front and back. It’s estimated that hoverbikes will be able to fly over any surface with a passenger load of around 140kg. 45 m.p.h. (72 km/h). One of the biggest advantages of hoverbikes has to do with their potential to assist in agricultural field work, delivering materials in rough terrain, as well as helping in various searches and rescue missions. 

A major and valid concern regarding this technology involves potential issues with stability and control. There is still room for the development and establishment of better safety mechanisms that will prevent the crafts from frequent rollovers and crashes. With a price tag of over $85,000 for a bike, we probably won’t be seeing too many people flying around with them, at least not yet and it will be a little while until they become available to the general public.

Self-driving Taxis

For the last several years, San Francisco’s hilly and congested roads have turned into a test track for hundreds of driverless cars operated by Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and General Motors-owned Cruise. After California regulators approved the expansion of driverless taxi services in San Francisco earlier this year, these futuristic vehicles have been ferrying passengers across San Francisco and Phoenix, at all hours of the day and charging fees. The hope is that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will boost safety and improve transportation access to residents but not everyone is thrilled about sharing the road with cars lacking a human driver and let’s just say it’s been a bumpy ride so far. Public fear over safety regulations has risen even more after some of the newly deployed cars got stuck in fresh concrete in streets, collided with emergency services on several occasions, injuring passengers and pedestrians in several instances, and generally just causing chaos and more congestion for the residents of those cities.  

It will take some time and adjusting as well as better regulations, testing, and safety measures to ensure these projects become successful, gaining the public’s trust in the process. Right now, the driverless taxis are set to operate at a reduced capacity, with regulators closely monitoring their performance. It does remain possible that a suspension could be issued to revoke testing and/or deployment permits if it’s determined that there is an unreasonable risk to public safety. It’s expected that two major Robotaxi companies, GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo, are set to expand their commercial services to other cities across the country, including Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City and they’re scaling up pretty fast. Phoenix, San Francisco, and Austin are currently the only cities where members of the public can hail a driverless robotaxi, however, that’s expected to change within the next year. 

Hyperloop

Until several years ago, advocates of high-speed rail believed their biggest competition to be cars, buses, and short-haul flights, however, newly emerging concepts such as the Hyperloop could give a whole new meaning to high-speed travel. The principle of the Hyperloop was first envisioned by Elon Musk back in 2012 and is based on the notion of transporting people in capsules or pods that travel at extremely high speeds through tubes over long distances. His idea was to create a new mode of transport that would be affordable, much like road transport, but fast like air. This in cooperation with Tesla and SpaceX, began a new era of high-speed innovation, with future Hyperloop projects expected to reduce waiting times by departing every couple of minutes, more frequently than other high-speed rail networks. 

In an ideal scenario, Hyperloops would send passengers back and forth between cities, countries, and even continents at speeds of more than 970 km/h (around 600 mph) in sophisticated capsules that float in partial vacuum tubes. Inside those tubes will be a low-pressure environment void of air, while the pods will function using magnetic levitation (MagLev) technology for propulsion. This concept was initially met with a healthy dose of skepticism, however, there are now over three major start-ups working to commercialize this type of technology. It has been estimated that by 2030, Virgin Hyperloop could be transporting people and freight from London to Edinburgh in just over 45 minutes, and less than half an hour from New York and Washington DC. Virgin Hyperloop One currently has an established 500-meter test track in Apex, Nevada, also referred to as the DevLoop. Hyperloop projects are also being considered in other countries such as India, the US, the UK, Canada, and Mexico.

Hypersonic Jets

A supersonic jet is an impressive concept to grasp by itself, taking into consideration the possibility of it being able to travel at a speed faster than sound. In the distant future, it’s expected that hypersonic jets will have the capacity and capabilities to travel much faster than supersonic jets, reaching speeds of over 9000 miles per hour which is an equivalent of 14,400+ kilometers per hour. This means that a speed of over twelve times faster than sound can be achieved. It’s predicted that a hypersonic jet will be able to reach any part of the world within one hour. People can travel between Los Angeles and Tokyo in just 1 hour, whereas currently, in a typical airplane, this is possible for 11 to 13 hours. An aviation startup called Venus Aerospace Corp is currently working on a Hypersonic spaceplane and they intend to make it a reality. 

Driverless Pods

These so-called ‘’driverless pods’’ are currently in their research and trial stage and are incorporating the use of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) transportation services with the intention of them being used at various public transportation hubs, private facilities, tourist buildings, shopping regions, medical facilities, corporate buildings, and airports. Driverless pods are undergoing initial testing stages in the city of London, where they’ve been placed for testing purposes in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the University of the West of England, and Loughborough University. 

Conclusion

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s estimated that future transportation will be based on several principles including zero-emission, zero accidents, and zero ownership. The sector is already going through major developments with the evolution of IoT, alternate fuels, and Big data analytics that all support and promote smart transportation in cities. It’s widely believed that individual car ownership will be little to none in the future and people all over the world will rely primarily on cost-effective options such as public transportation and paid taxis, along with other eco-friendly modes of transit taking on priority over traditional ones. It’s certainly an exciting time for the industry, with a lot of room for expansion and potential for development through various initiatives that help authorities achieve urban and sustainability goals along with organizations that stand to profit if these projects are scaled up and implemented correctly.