5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work
Companies such as Uber and Hyperloop One are pouring time and major resources into making innovative transportation concepts a reality. Here are other neat transportation developments underway. With flying cars, we may never have to sit in traffic again.
Big companies such as Uber, Boeing, and Airbus are actively developing the technology get airborne. So are Silicon Valley startups, such as Joby Aviation, Zee Aero and Kittyhawk. (The latter two startups have been funded by Google co-founder Larry Page.)
Uber, which is working alongside NASA, recently detailed an ambitious goal to introduce commercial flying taxis within the next five years. Rides will be booked within the Uber app.
Although the cars seem like glorified helicopters, Uber believes it’ll be safer and cheaper than what’s already available.
“If you had an app to request a five-minute flight and skip all the tunnels to get out of New York City, that’s a huge opportunity,” said Sam Korus, an ARK Invest analyst who has studied flying cars.
Live in sunny LA and commute daily to a job in San Francisco? That will become far more appealing if Elon Musk’s Hyperloop becomes a reality. What now involves a 55-minute flight and all the hassles of airport security could become a 30-minute ride from what will essentially be a train station.
The Hyperloop operates on a vacuum-like system. Passengers will ride in large pods that travel at more than 600 mph — more than twice the speed of the fastest bullet trains today. So far, the company has built a 500-meter test track above ground in Nevada.
But the challenges remain significant. To start, building a vacuum tube over hundreds of miles of land could cost billions of dollars. In addition, the Hyperloop must travel in a straight line so passengers don’t get sick. Other challenges include obtaining access to available land and regulatory approval. Environmental reviews could take years.
Futuristic subway systems
There’s another Elon Musk vision that’s much closer to becoming a reality: Loop, a more localised, subway-like project from The Boring Company. (Musk is the founder). Subway construction has slowed in the US due to high building and maintenance costs, but Loop’s futuristic concept is making progress in Los Angeles. The company has nearly finished building its first stretch of a tunnel in the city that will transport people in their own cars or pedestrian “pods” at speeds up to 150 mph.
The high-speed system will allow people to bypass traffic and get around the city faster. The company also announced plans to build a regional Loop network connecting close cities such as Baltimore and Washington DC. However, experts warn the tunnels could become congested, too. In theory, more people could gravitate to cars and wait in traffic jams at tunnel entry points. Musk recently said it will offer free rides on the Loop in the coming months.
Taxi in the morning, pop-up store at night
Your future rideshare car could be a chameleon. Toyota’s e-Palette concept vehicle can transform from a ridesharing vehicle to a mobile store that sells merchandise or into a package-delivery truck. This means the ride that gave you a lift to work in the morning could also deliver your pizza for dinner.
The interior can transform, making it nearly impossible to detect it’s the same vehicle. Meanwhile, LCD screens on the car’s exterior could display different brands. Toyota isn’t alone in rethinking the layout of vehicles. Musk previously described plans at Tesla to reimagine the bus by removing the center aisle and adding seats. Other companies, such as Via and Chariot, are offering personalized routes determined by user data.
Major advances in computing power and software have made self-driving cars not just a pipedream. Computer vision algorithms in cars can now identify objects, such as pedestrians, stop lights or lane markings, with impressive accuracy. Cameras and radars collect tons of data, which cutting-edge machines can parse to help plan a safe course to your destination.
Recently, Drive.ai — a Silicon Valley-based startup building self-driving car software — said it will offer free rides to passengers in Frisco, Texas, between offices and retail stores. Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google’s parent company, has a similar program and will launch a paid service in the Phoenix area by year’s end.
But plenty of hurdles remain. Most Americans are still afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. In March, self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, raising skepticism about the industry.
Although it’s hard to tell which of these transportation concepts will succeed, don’t count on your commute to stay the same.