What will the future of transportation look like? As technology advances, dramatic changes to urban transportation are coming to our roads and skies. While some of these ideas seem light-years away, such as flying taxis and pods that transport passengers at 600 miles per hour, many of these transformative ideas are already in design, in testing, or just a few regulatory steps away from reality.
As the transportation world evolves, we’re faced with big questions. Who would be responsible for paying for a collision involving a driverless car? Would it be the driver’s car insurance company or the manufacturer’s insurance? As of now, car companies have been footing the bill for crashes so research and development isn’t slowed down, but that will likely change once driverless cars become mainstream.
Below, we look at these emerging technology trends and the societal changes they may bring. Jump to the infographic or take a deep dive into the issues these technologies are trying to solve by making transportation safer and more secure.
Innovations in transportation can lead to improvements in our lives by reducing stress, anxiety, costs, and death. Here are six transportation innovations that are already being engineered:
These high-speed trains use magnetic levitation from powerful electromagnets to travel high speeds with less noise and vibration than traditional trains. They are also less likely to encounter delays due to weather and mechanics because of the dip in vibration and friction.
Because maglev trains are not powered by fossil fuels, they are better for the environment too. The “engine” is the magnetic field that is created by combining electrified coils in the guideway walls and the track, which causes the train to push forward.
As of 2018, there are six maglev lines operating for public use. All of these lines operate out of Asia but expect to see maglev trains expand into the U.S. as early as 2020. The first U.S. maglev train will connect Washington D.C. and Baltimore and then expand its route to New York.
This aerial transportation method is already being prototyped by at least 20 companies. The flying taxis would move passengers above cities in small planes. The hope is that these flying taxis would provide safe, reasonably priced rides (such as $70 from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport) that aren’t a nuisance to people on the ground below.
The biggest challenges facing flying taxis are the costs and regulations. Building safe, durable aircraft at a reasonable cost isn’t possible given the market trends as they are now and a long regulatory process still awaits with the Federal Aviation Authority.
Currently in testing phases, the future of driverless cars seems inevitable despite some consumer hesitation. The pushback comes from questions around safety and regulations. Tesla’s autopilot system is already live but it has had several accidents reported, although Tesla has stated that “crash-like events” are still way more likely with the autopilot disengaged. Audi, Uber, and Volkswagen are also on the road and making headlines for their driverless vehicles.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of death on U.S. roads, and driverless cars hope to eliminate this entirely by using robots rather than humans to operate vehicles. Driverless cars will also be designed to take less risks and reduce speeding incidents. But these driverless cars come with a hefty price tag – the anticipated costs exceed $100,000. Some other setbacks include privacy concerns, ethical questions, legal ramifications, and more.
The first UPS drone delivered prescription medications to U.S. homes in October after receiving certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the fewest restrictions delivery drones have received to date, which means that the FAA is likely warming up to the idea of full-scale commercial deliveries.
While the technology is already here, drones still have a way to go in terms of regulatory phases before they are rolled out for full-scale commercial delivery. Currently, UPS is limited to delivery in rural areas and hospital campuses. Since drones do pose a risk to life and property, they will need to prove long-term reliability before they become “type certified” by the FAA and similar international regulators.
Elon Musk is reimagining traditional road design with his idea of underground roadways. This futuristic vision aims to solve city infrastructure issues by making roads 3D. Musk believes taking cars underground — which he believes is more weather-proof than taking cars to the skies — will alleviate congestion and speed up transportation.
The Boring Company is working on figuring out how to create a system of tunnels that will be needed to support the underground roadways. The plan is to lower cars underground via a metal elevator and then transport them at high speeds to other destinations. The underground tunnel will run on a metal trolley-like platform that Musk hopes is both cost-effective and quick.
Elon Musk conceived another transportation concept called hyperloop, which is a transportation tube that would run groups of passengers or freight through a pressurized track. The hyperloop would run at a high speed of 600 mph or more.
Multiple companies are working to bring this vision to reality, and we could be seeing passenger service hyperloops as early as 2021.
Humanitarian challenges and advances in technology are leading a wave of transportation innovation across the globe. Issues such as overcrowding, climate change, and wealth inequality make these advancements especially attractive to cities and companies, despite the many regulatory and logistical challenges these new ideas bring to the table.
Here are some of the issues the future of transportation hopes to tackle:
For more information on ways transportation could transform our world for the better, check out our visual below.
New technology is exciting, but also comes with its share of fear and uncertainty. You can reduce anxiety by making sure you and your transportation investment are protected with car insurance. Whether you own a car that drives itself or a car that is transported through tunnels underground, you can feel safer and more financially secure with a fully protected vehicle.