Ten Futuristic Forms Of Transportation We Could See Soon
It may sound like the next summer blockbuster, but it's real life. A brilliant billionaire designs an innovative all-electric car, founds a company to resupply the International Space Station, and invents a super-successful alternative banking system. Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and PayPal, and now he's revolutionizing public transport. A start-up named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. has published a timeline projecting the completion of a Hyperloop prototype in the first quarter of 2015. He recently unveiled his idea for an ultra-fast, city-to-city transport system that could get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 35 minutes.
#9. Nuclear-Powered Cars
Even though everybody seems to be terrified of nuclear energy these days, it could very well be a huge part of our future. For years, Laser Power Systems (LPS) has been touting the benefits of thorium, a radioactive element that's largely responsible for generating the heat at the center of the Earth. They plan to build a car engine that's powered by a single, small chunk of the radioactive material. The engine would work by focusing the heat given off by the thorium and using it to turn water into steam, spinning a series of microturbines to generate eletricity. Now that's a future we can all get behind.
Supercavitation is an effect created when a layer of gas bubbles is formed around an object inside a liquid. In the world of nautical engineering, no idea is picking up speed faster than supercavitation. It goes without saying that a supercavitating boat would be a tremendous asset to any navy fleet. The gas reduces friction by up to 900 times less than the normal amount, allowing the object to move much more quickly than normal through the water. It could also be an efficient ferry, particularly when moving troops to enemy shores.
#7. The Martin Jetpack
Yes, that iconic space-age vehicle is no longer just a figment of your average sci-fi writer's imagination. One of TIME magazine's Top 50 Inventions for 2010 has been called "the world's first practical jetpack." It has a maximum speed of just under 74 kilometers per hour (46 mph), and can reach altitudes of 900 meters (3,000 feet). Glenn Martin, a New Zealander with a vision, has been working on his jetpack design for over 30 years, and it's finally nearly ready for commercial sale. But don't worry: It should be available for personal use by sometime in mid-2014 for those who have a spare $200,000.
In 2006, Toronto unveiled plans for a "high-speed, all-season, pollution-free, ultra-quiet transit system that makes people healthier." It would be nice to bike to work every day, but let's face it-it's a lot of effort. Well, soon it might get a little bit easier. Designed by Toronto architect Chris Hardwicke, the idea was to build an elevated, three-lane tube for bikes. Velo-city, as the project is called, would also be ideal for cold-weather climates, as bikers would be protected from the elements. Perhaps we'll have bicycles whizzing comfortably above our heads in the near future.
Have you heard about Next? Designer Tommaso Gecchelin envisions a world in which you use your smartphone to call Next, and a self-driving module comes to pick you up. You slide into the configurable seat, and the doors close. Your module scoots along on four wheels until it meets up with a group of other modules. It's a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, we've got a long way to go before we're ready for Next. All in all, Gecchelin figures we won't be ready for Next until at least 2025.
In 2010, Kolelinio, a concept put forth by Martin Angelov at the TEDx conference in Thessaloniki. Believe it or not, a zip-line commute could soon become reality. Angelov envisions a network of wires crisscrossing the skies, allowing people to zip from place to place. His idea would do away with that, as well as contribute to a greener transportation infrastructure. It's an innovative idea, and we'll keep crossing our fingers that someone decides to make it real sometime soon.
In 2013, the United Kingdom announced plans to spend more than $90 million developing the Skylon, a super-fast plane that could travel at five times the speed of sound and break out of the Earth's orbit to travel in outer space. Development has only just begun, and there are some formidable obstacles to overcome. It would be able to take off from any runway in the world, and could bring 300 passengers from London to Sydney in four hours. John Hansman, the head of MIT's International Center for Air Transportation, says, "It looks great from a science fiction standpoint, but it's really, really tough to do."
This concept vehicle is sleek and streamlined and vaguely motorcycle-shaped, but it's also enclosed, with plenty of room for luggage, and it's powered by either batteries, biofuel, or a fuel cell. Designer David Miguel Moreira Goncalves had the urban environment in mind when he drew up his plans. You can drive it manually, but it can also navigate itself on certain dedicated pathways. No SCARABs have been built yet, but we're hopeful that sometime in the near future we'll be able to hop into one of those babies and go for a hip, eco-friendly spin.
Tel Aviv, Israel is in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, the ancient cradle of civilization. Tel Aviv is a vibrant, bustling, 24-hour city-with a major traffic problem. That's why they've set themselves the goal of building SkyTran in the near future. SkyTran will run on metal tracks six meters (20 ft) above the ground, although they won't actually be "on" the tracks. According to SkyTran's CEO, Jerry Sanders, a SkyTran ride will cost a little more than a bus, but less than a comparable distance in a taxi. But maybe we'll all take a leaf out of Tel Aviv's book and start zooming around the skies like the Jetsons. The future is now, after all.
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