We all drew pictures of what the future would be like when we were young. Perhaps you drew pictures of life in space or underwater, or maybe you drew pictures of flying cars and robots.
Many of us thought of how modes of transportation would be transformed when we imagined the future. We’re still far from having flying cars, but other futuristic forms of transportation are becoming a reality. What might some of these new means of transportation be?
① Self-driving Cars
When traveling with your friends or taking a trip back to your hometown, don’t you feel sorry for the one who has to do most of the driving? Or have you experienced fatigue from driving long distances yourself? In the near future, there will be no need for us to feel fatigue from driving. This is because cars will soon drive to the their destinations on their own!
A self-driving car means that the car can drive on its own without the driver controlling it. A car that can drive on its own sounds quite fantastic but this technology will be commonplace in the not too distant future. According to a McKenzie report, early adapter self-driving cars will be on the road by 2025-30, be distributed to the public by 2040.
But what are the advantages to self-driving cars?
First, driving times for commuters can be decreased.
Second, approximately 100 million people die in car accidents each year. Self-driving cars will reduce the number of accidents caused by driver error. The amount of property damage caused by accidents will also be reduced.
Third, since self-driving cars can drive without people, cars will not require parking spaces wide enough to allow people to get out of the cars. Parking spaces in the U.S. currently occupy approximately 500 million square kilometers of space. When self-driving cars come into popular use, this land would be able to be put to much better use.
Self-driving cars with their many advantages require various technologies that perform complex tasks a human driver would not be able to perform.
Some of these technologies include Lidar sensors detecting distances from cars in front to prevent collisions, a BSD system for preventing collisions while moving in reverse and a AEB emergency braking system.
Self-driving cars need these diverse types of IT. Google is now the company that is closest to making self-driving cars a common fixture on the road. As of March 2016, Google self-driving cars had achieved 2 million kilometers of test driving with the goal of commercializing self-driving cars by the year 2020.
Google recently announced that they are testing a system that allows self-driving cars to detect a signal from bicycles and yield to bicycles in their paths. The day when everyone in a car can enjoy their travel time all the way to their destination.
Have you seen articles about the Hyperloop that came out about a month ago? The article was released because the super-high-speed train known as Hyperloop that was created by Tesla CEO and Space X founder, Elon Musk, had its first successful test run. The test run showed Hyperloop achieve 186km/h for 2 seconds and it reached 1,126km/h for 800m.
Hyperloop is a capsule style train that travels through a tube. Elon Must has stated that Hyperloop will be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 1,220km/h. Considering that the average speed of an airplane is 700-900km/h, Hyperloop would be our fasted mode of transportation. But how can Hyperloop travel faster than an airplane?
Hyperloop’s speeds are achievable by reducing air resistance. Air resistance causes friction and limits the speed of a moving object. The air in the Hyperloop tube is evacuated via a vacuum pump and a low pressure environment is created to reduce the amount of air resistance. Hyperloop also utilizes air bearing so that train rails are not necessary.
In order to make a train travel at such a high velocity, wouldn’t a large amount of energy also be required? The Hyperloop passenger capsule is propelled using a Linear motor located outside of the Hyperloop tube. The energy for this type of motor can be generated through solar panels. So, the train system itself can generate the energy needed to propel passenger capsules.
Hyperloop has other advantages besides high speeds. Because it is a train, the transportation system can be constructed in or near major cities. Also, unlike airplanes, Hyperloop can run regardless of the weather outside.
These types of high-speed train systems are not only being developed in Europe, China and the US but also in countries like Korea as well. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a train like Hyperloop running from Asia to Europe?
③ Passenger Drones
In 2013, the US online merchandiser Amazon announced that they will launch a drone deliver system called Prime Air. Other companies such as Google, Flirtey and Wal-Mart are also attempting to commercialize drone delivery services. When drone delivery becomes commercialized, delivery times will be reduced from days to hours.
But what if drones could transport people as well? People could travel at high speeds above the congested roads. In fact, there are already human transport drone technologies under development. The Chinese pilotless airline company, Ehang, is already working to make this a reality.
The Ehang drone, Ehang 184, is much larger than the drones that we are accustomed to at a whopping 200kg. Considering that the larger drones that we see today are about 15kg, the Ehang 184 is more like a small helicopter than a drone.
However, it differs from a helicopter in that there are no controls with which a pilot would steer the drone. The user simply needs to enter their destination on into an app and the drone does the rest.
The Ehang 184 can fly at an altitude of 500m at 100km/h for 20 minutes. The battery can also last for 2-4 hours when fully charged. The Ehang 184 must take the passengers’ comfort and safety into consideration at all times. If any component fails at any time, there is a fail-safe system installed in the Ehang 184 that immediately lands the drone in the nearest safe location.
Ehang has currently received permission to run test flights in the State of Nevada in the US. One day soon, we may be able to call a drone to take us to our next location as easy as we call an Uber.
There are several things we must do to prepare before these technologies can transform our transportation systems. As we must do with all technology, we have to prevent these technologies from being hacked. Also, as we have seen with the Google and Tesla self-driving cars, there is a risk of accidents occurring during test drives.
There are not only technological issues that should be considered but also legal factor that come into play. If a drone taxi or self-driving car is in an accident, who should bear responsibility for any injuries or property damage? Also, there is also the issue of nationalities and identity when a passenger in one of these forms of transportation crosses national borders. Discussion must be made to manage data sharing systems between nations.
But will these issues stop the development of these great technologies? Once these issues have been resolved, the technologies will be contributing to make our lives better in no time.
Written by Borim Kim, LG CNS Student Reporter