There was a time not all that long ago–just about 150 years or so in the past–that the idea of a horseless carriage (known today as a “car”) was a far-fetched idea that was light years–or light millenniums even–away. Self-propelled cars, it was believed by some, would never, ever catch on.
It simply wasn’t going to happen. It was far too dangerous, they were works of science-fiction. Gasoline was billed as explosive and dangerous–so much so that a commission was formed in the late 1800s to determine the safety of vehicles not propelled by horses.
Now, fast forward a bit and you’ll note that there are over 250 million “horseless carriages” across the United States according to recent estimates. Not only have they caught on, there are an estimated 809 cars per 1000 people in the US alone, good for fourth most cars per person in the world. In first place is San Marino, which has an almost imperceptible 1,263 cars per 1,000 people.
The future is great, isn’t it?
So if these horseless-carriages have caught on as the most popular form of transportation in the world, what could be next? What futuristic inventions and creations could change travel in the next few decades–or next few years? Here are a few ideas of what might be changing in the way we travel (or plan to travel) in the relatively near future.
Traveling by plane is great–it’s fast, you can sleep, watch a movie or read a book while you soar miles above the hustle and bustle of traffic. Plane travel is also, in large part, fairly expensive. So what if you could read, nap or catch up on “Game of Thrones” while driving across the US on a road trip?
Self-driving cars–a technology largely pioneered by Google, also allows for travel both near and far, for those who couldn’t normally drive. The elderly or disabled–or those who are simply poor drivers–could immensely benefit from having an autonomous driving car at their disposal. Travel, at that point, would never be easier or safer.
The self-driving project is still just that–a project, but it is catching on across the US. Four states have passed legislation allowing for self-driving cars to be used within state boundaries. Eight states plus DC have passed laws allowing for the testing of driverless cars on public roads. The development is quickly becoming a reality.
Hyperloop and Maglev
Maglev trains–bullet trains that use magnets to allow them to hover above tracks–are almost undebatably the future of train transportation. Found in parts of Europe and Asia (primarily Japan), magnet trains reduce friction to allow for incredibly high-speed transportation, allowing you to travel between larger distances faster. Currently, the top speed a maglev train has reached is about 270 mph, which allows the train to cover 19 miles in under 8 minutes.
The Hyperloop system, developed by MIT was billed as being a potential “future of travel,” by the BBC. Hyperloops function as small pods that can transport people across the country through tubes, similar like you may have seen in future-based television shows like Futurama or The Jetsons. MIT hopes to have Hyperloops in-use within the US by 2021.
Right now, the future of travel seems like it could be closer than any of us imaged.