In the blockbuster sequel Back to the Future II, Marty McFly travels to the distant year 2015, where he encounters flying cars and hover boards. While the year 2015 has not actually seen flying cars go mainstream, technology has the future of transportation primed for some impressive achievements. See what kind of technology American consumers can expect in the coming decades.
High Tech Trains
The future promises big things for those who travel by rail. But forget the traditional wood and steel framework; the trains of the future will run on magnetic energy and travel through tubes. A maglev train is already in the works, which stands for magnetic levitation. Able to travel at 310 miles per hour, these locomotives have the potential to reduce road congestion and air pollution. A planned maglev train in Japan will transport passengers between Nagoya and Tokyo, a journey of 200 miles, in under 40 minutes. One of the major hold-ups, however, has been the cost of development for these systems.
In 2013, Elon Musk announced a design for a transportation system known as Hyperloop. He claims that these systems will be cheaper to produce and faster than maglev trains. The mechanism relies on vacuum technology to transport passengers at over 800 miles per hour. In Musk’s vision, a Hyperloop between San Francisco and Los Angeles will run in just 30 minutes. According to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, construction on these railways could begin in California as early as 2016.
You are probably familiar with Google’s autonomous vehicles, and experts suggest they are just the beginning. While Google is leading the charge with a fleet of 24 autonomous cars operating throughout San Francisco, companies and lawmakers are quickly following suit. Las Vegas, for example, has already made them legal for use on major roadways. Ford and Cadillac have also announced plans for technology to let their cars take the wheel.
Autonomous cars might have already become mainstream, if not for a couple of lingering liability concerns. Insurance remains a major issue when it comes to self-driving vehicles. There is also some concern with public safety, as robotic drivers cannot discern nuance the same way humans can. Once these issues are address by engineers and automakers, expect to see driverless cars all over the country.
The common thread between the trains, cars, and commercial vehicles of the future is the interest in energy consumption. The transportation of the future will rely on alternative energy technologies to get us where we need to go at less cost and with a smaller carbon footprint. According to the Da Vinci Institute, a futuristic think tank, the cost of producing a car will be less than $5,000 (in today’s dollars) by 2050. They also envision a complete turn from oil to electric, and eventually to binary power. Commercial vehicles and cars alike will run on frictionless technology, making the weight of the average passenger vehicle under 200 lbs. This will reduce strain on roadways until they fade into obscurity altogether, which they estimate will be sometime around 2070.
What do you think? Would you use any of these planned transportation technologies?