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Essay: What will transport be like in the future?

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  • Subject area(s): Information technology essays
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  • Published: June 25, 2021*
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  • Words: 1,770 (approx)
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  • What will transport be like in the future?
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As we advance into the future so does our planet. The world is always changing, making us humans change with it. We have to adapt for the surrounding environment which is ever changing due to the fumes which the planet’s man made machines emit. Vehicle emissions affect air quality, the ozone layer and the general environment.

The BBC having undergone a study released information stating cars on England’s roads have risen by 600,000 from 2014 to 2015. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said there had been 2.63 million new cars made during 2015, a 6.3% rise on the year before. Production also hit a seven-year high. The amount of cars rapidly increasing means there is a higher demand for vehicle production, resulting in more harmful emissions which destroy the environment. Methods of transportation that are efficient, fast and eco-friendly are essential for the future. These methods of transportation

Mass Transit – Hyperloop

The Hyperloop is superior to all other vehicle proposals in terms of speed, energy efficiency, value, safety of the passengers and is on-demand. The idea was proposed by Elon Musk, co-founder/CEO of Tesla, the first fully electric car manufacturer, and co-founder/CEO of SpaceX. making rockets reusable and the world’s most high-profile commercial spaceflight company. He went so far, as to create blueprints for the Hyperloop and released them to the public for them to figure out the rest. So far, two companies, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop One, have made major progress from the blueprints.

A custom electric motor will be used to accelerate and deaccelerate a levitating pod through a low-pressure tube and will glide silently with zero turbulence. Hyperloop One states ‘Hyperloop is a new way to move people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket’. The Hyperloop transportation technologies aims for the shuttle to travel at approximately 760 mph (the speed of sound). Construction and operation costs of the Hyperloop are expected to be significantly lower than any other mass transportation system, which Elon predicts to be within the range of $6 – $7.5 billion. The relatively low development costs, result into cheaper ticket prices for the public. The tubes carrying the shuttle will be held above the ground by pylons, therefore can be built over land already used for public transportation such as motorways, reducing footprint. Tubes will also be built underground and Hyperloop One are working on building tubes underwater. The Hyperloop will be much safer than any other means of transport. A propulsion system is put into the tube and can only accelerate the capsule to speeds which are safe in each section of the track, which eradicates any accidents caused by human error; nearly all travel accidents are caused by this. It is also resistant to all weather, including ice, fog and wind, also another major factor of travel accidents.

Hyperloop One are the closest to cracking the code, having tested the motor in May 2016 and will test the complete system in early 2017. Routes are being developed in five countries and the goal is to be moving passengers by 2021. Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have spoken to 10 governments collectively, including China, about Hyperloop plans in their countries in the future.

Autonomous vehicles

An autonomous (driverless) car can sense its surroundings with various technologies: Radar – object detection using radio waves, LIDAR – measures distance between objects using laser lights, GPS, odometer – uses data from motion sensors to calculate movement over time and computer vision – computer uses images and videos from around the car. All of these systems put together enable the car to guide itself without any human control.

Currently there are six major companies working on driverless cars: Volvo, Google, Uber, Tesla, Ford and BMW. We will take a closer look at Google car. The Google car has eight different sensors continuously feeding information to the computers. The most noticeable is the black cone at the top, which is a single rotating LIDAR. It uses 32 or 64 lasers to measure the distance between the car and surrounding objects, in turn producing a real time 3D map with a maximum range of 200m. This allows the car to avoid any obstacles around it. A camera pointing through the wind screen not only helps with this, but can also read road signs and detect traffic lights. A bumper-mounted radar observes vehicles behind and in front of the car. A rear-mounted aerial intercepts GPS signals and the ultrasonic sensor in one of the rear wheels detects all movement of the car. Altimeters, gyroscopes and a tachometer are found on the inside of the vehicle. These give more detailed measurements of where the car is located and the change in place. All of these sensors working together produce a car that can do the same as, or even overcome manually operated cars.

Autonomous cars are much safer than manually operated cars, much like the Hyperloop, because there is no risk of human error. However, in May the first death occurred in an autonomous car, the Tesla S model after being switched into auto piolet mode. The car’s computer was unable to differentiate a white lorry from the brightly lit sky and did not trigger the brakes. Driverless cars are still much safer than manually driven cars, however a poll conducted by Morning Consult from January 29-31, 2016, shows that the majority of people believe that they are not safe enough. This is because people are cautious of giving all their trust to a car and feel vulnerable as their life is not in their own hands. The Google car is an example of this because it has no steering wheel or pedals, therefore the passenger has no control over the vehicle.

Aside from the public’s fear of autonomous cars, there are many positive outcomes of a driverless world. A Telegraph study in 2011 discovered the average Briton spends 10 hours a week driving. This sums up to three weeks spent behind the windscreen. In an autonomous car, this time could be used so much more productively; reading, working, socializing and the list goes on. The time taken to travel from a to b would be significantly lower in areas where driverless cars are in the high majority. Autonomous vehicles can ride closely together and at the same speed due to sharp sensors, therefore dramatically decreasing congestion and traffic. In areas where only self-driving cars are on the roads, there would be no need for traffic lights, or even speed limits. According to Eno Transportation, autonomous cars in high proportions could result in a behavior called platooning, where the vehicles would drive in a line one directly behind the other. Only the vehicle at the front would experience large air friction forces. The vehicles behind are sheltered from the air drag by the vehicle in front saving them 8-12% of their total fuel. New York Times suggests people with disabilities who are unable to drive, no longer have to use public transport and ‘could reap the benefits of self-driving cars with new freedom and enhanced mobility’.

This is similar to the idea presented by Wanis Kabbaj, in a TED talk that combines personal vehicles with mass transit systems. According to Wanis ‘In the USA alone 29.6 billion hours had been spent commuting in 2014.’ This is an immense amount of time wasted, that could be filled so much more effectively. There is much more traffic in densely populated urban cities E.g. Mumbai due to the inability to build major network expansions solely down to the lack of space. In these cities, the roads are getting even more used and as a result, traffic flow is becoming even slower. This can be solved by filling up all unused space on the road effectively. 85 cars which contain only a single passenger could be taken of the roads, and be traded for a London bus, but mass transit systems like buses cannot travel directly to the desired destination and stop at several different locations. A mass transit system combined with a car would be the ultimate compromise. Wanis Kabbaj proposes the idea of a line of autonomous pods which travel attached to on another like a bus, but

detach from one another at a certain location. This allows for the single pod to act like an autonomous car and can drive you directly to your doorstep. The rest of the pods re attach and travel to the next location where another single pod detaches. This would significantly increase the amount of space on busy streets and reduce congestion. These pods would ideally be run by electricity to reduce CO2 emissions.

Air transport

It is estimated that on average, there are 93000 daily flights. This means at any given time, there are in between 8000 and 13000 planes in the sky. These numbers are rising, and as a result, aerospace companies need to make planes more efficient and faster.

Future airplanes will almost certainly use blended wings. The wings are formed into the shape of the plane and extend from the roof, instead of the current wings which are added parts onto the main body of the plane. This would reduce air drag, making the fuel more efficient and increasing speed. The plane would be able to lift more easily and potentially create less noise. It would also make much more space in the interior of the plane which would allow for more comfort whilst flying. Currently, Nasa are working alongside Boeing Phantom Works, to create a blended winged plane (image on the right). The consequence of this design is the removal of all windows, which would cause a claustrophobic and dark experience for the passengers. An answer to this is to lay real time, digital screens of the outside along the interior walls of the plane. This will give the passengers a greater sense of space and will provide light. In-flight bars and shops could also be made possible because of the large increase in space. Hybrid designs are achievable with new propulsion systems by using electricity, sourced from Lithium air batteries and superconductivity, to power a turbofan thrust. Superconducting motors would dramatically increase efficiency and decrease noise but super-cooled magnets are necessary to produce power. Blended wing-designs proposed by Boeing can break the sound barrier, whilst carrying a large amount of passengers. This solves the problem to the Concorde, potential of reaching super-sonic speeds but could only carry 100 passengers per flight, killing, its economic competitiveness.

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