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The future of transportation

Self-driving cars are expected to hit the roads sooner and in greater numbers than predicted just a few years ago. Forecasts differ, but the emerging agreement among the industry’s main players is that by the end of this decade, fleet vehicles—trucks, taxis, and buses—that can take control and make independent decisions—will be in use. More recent entrants to the industry, such as Tesla and the Delphi-Mobileye partnership, believe that fully autonomous vehicles will be available around the same time. #SelfDrivingCars #AutonomousVehicles #FutureTransportation

While the technology has definitely progressed beyond being hypothetical and a novelty on the roads of Northern California, its influence on transportation in the near future is expected to be small outside of a few big cities and potentially the world’s long-haul trucking routes. However, by 2025 and beyond, autonomous vehicles will be progressively integrated into a system that allows a passenger to hail an autonomous, fully-electric taxi using her smartphone, which connects with other vehicles to assure safety and with infrastructure managers to regulate traffic flows. #TransportationTechnology #SmartCities

Although magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology has existed for decades, it is only used commercially in a few places. As with the Shanghai Maglev, which commenced operations in 2004 and connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport with a station on the outskirts of the city proper, the technology that powers trains is mostly a curiosity or tourist attraction. The Chuo Shinkansen, the first long-distance line, is expected to open in the mid-2020s, cutting the travel time between Tokyo and Nagoya, which are 350 kilometers away, in half to only 40 minutes. At least ten additional nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, China, and India, are currently exploring developing their own maglev lines within the next 20 years. #MaglevTechnology #HighSpeedRail #TransportInfrastructure

Until recently, proponents of high-speed and ultra-high-speed rail felt that cars, buses, and short-haul aircraft were its main competitors. However, a new notion has developed since then: the hyperloop. The hyperloop, described as a “fifth mode” of transportation by its creator, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, will carry people between cities at speeds of more than 970km/h in capsules that float in partial vacuum tubes. Elon Musk’s concept proposal for the hyperloop, which was first released in August 2012, was met with a combination of awe and skepticism, if not more of the latter. Now, though, three big start-ups, not counting Elon Musk’s own company, are seeking to commercialize the technology, with more on the way. #Hyperloop #FutureTransportation #ElonMusk

Unlike self-driving automobiles, however, neither maglev nor hyperloop can use current infrastructure. Maglev lines can save money by running parallel to existing conventional lines, although the savings are minor when compared to the total cost. Hyperloops will require completely new, stand-alone platforms to be developed. That makes them both expensive, at least in terms of current and projected costs, and with most governments in the developed and developing world grappling with massive and growing debt burdens, persuading taxpayers that either mode is a worthwhile investment, no matter how sleek and appealing the concept, is bound to be difficult. #InfrastructureDevelopment #TransportationInvestment #FutureTechnologies

Although the future of high-speed transportation may not be far off, it may be postponed due to economic restraints, much to the chagrin of businesses and the general public. #FutureTransportation #EconomicConstraints