Transportation is an essential infrastructure for the economic well-being and growth of a country. A healthy transportation sector provides crucial support for economic growth in both rural and urban areas, national defense and sustained access to safe, efficient travel for the country’s inhabitants.
In a report released in 2015 by the Department of Transportation (DOT), there is a critical need for improvement of our nation’s transportation system. While the DOT has begun accelerating the improvement of our country’s highways and bridges, new forms of transit are being developed and will most likely be implemented soon.
Here are 10 innovations that will revolutionize transportation in the near future.
- Self-driving drone taxis
Autonomous drone taxis that drive themselves are currently being tested before being released on the market. The drones, which look much like a regular helicopter, have 18 propellers. They can carry 2 passengers and are expected to be in service by July 2018.
- Maglev trains
Maglev (short for “magnetic levitation”) trains hover about 4 inches above their tracks and are propelled by electrically-charged magnets. Riders claim the trains are exceptionally comfortable and stable. Maglev trains have been recorded to travel at a rate of 375 miles per hour (mph). Maglev trains are already in operation in China and Germany and are expected to become a common mode of transportation throughout the world by 2030.
- Hyperloop transportation systems
This transportation concept, conceived by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is currently being designed and developed. Hyperloops are essentially transportation tubes that run pods of passengers or freight through a pressurized track at high speeds. Hyperloops run at an average of 600 mph; their top speed is 760 mph. There are several companies currently working to advance the technology. One company hopes to launch its first passenger service in 2021.
- Satellite-based air traffic control systems
Air traffic control systems in operation today are ground-based, using technology that that dates back to the 1960’s. Satellite-based control systems allow air traffic controllers to be more efficient. The U.S. is currently working on NextGen, a satellite-based air traffic control system that is being implemented in stages through 2025. GPS technology will be used to increase accuracy and shorten routes. NextGen is expected to save time and fuel, reduce air traffic delays, increase flight capacity and permit air traffic controllers to monitor aircraft with improved safety margins. Once NextGen is rolled out across America’s airports, airplanes will be able to fly closer together, making it easier to take direct routes and avoid delays caused by “stacking” planes waiting for take-off. NextGen will reduce aircraft gridlock, both in the sky and in airports.
- Self-driving electric buses
Automated city buses and shuttles will be in operation in the near future. Autonomous vehicles use cameras, radars and GPS systems to recognize and communicate with traffic lights and have impressive safety records. These buses of the future will reduce the impact on the environment because they are electric. Self-driving buses are already in operation in China and Germany, and are being tested in the U.S. Autonomous buses have a back-up mode where a human can take control of the vehicle if needed.
- Elevated buses
While self-driving electric buses are making strides worldwide, China is working on a bus system that will reduce traffic congestion. The elevated bus is a vehicle that “straddles” traffic. It runs on a special track that allows regular vehicles to drive underneath. The Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) system is currently being designed in China and is expected to reduce traffic congestion by 30 percent.
- Flying hotel pods
A fleet of drones that are portable hotels are being designed by a company in Canada. The hospitality concept, Driftscape, is a mobile, self-sustaining hotel that uses drone technology. Driftscape allows guests to travel while sleeping, roam or touch down in diverse locations. It is made up of several modular units that include food and beverage elements. Driftscape offers 360-degree views of the outside world and is particularly suited to have minimal impact on the environment, allowing the guest to travel to locations that are sensitive while preserving the integrity and authenticity of the location.
- Smart roads
Roads are the foundation of the future of transportation, providing society with smart mobility. A typical smart road will be more animated, able to communicate with vehicles and people using sensors, data capture abilities and the ability to be responsive to changes in the environment. Roads will literally talk to traffic signs, bicycles and vehicles. Roads will virtually be alive.
Smart roads will be able to store solar energy and transfer that energy into electricity for vehicles and the infrastructure. They will glow in the dark using photo-luminescent powder that charges during the day. Smart roads will use motion-sensor lights to light up only the sections of road that are being used, providing night visibility while going dim when not in use.
Smart roads of the future will be able to melt snow and ice using electricity or hot water, reducing traffic accidents that cause injury and death. In addition, federal, state and local governments spend billions of dollars on the operation, maintenance and repair of highways and drivers lose billions of dollars annually due to corrosion-related repair costs and depreciation linked to chemicals used to treat roadways during the winter.
- Ground level pedestrian lights
There has been a rise in the number of accidents involving foot traffic since the use of smartphones has increased. An innovation in transportation technology is a system that can be installed at pedestrian traffic lights that would light up the pavement in red or green to signal when it is safe or not safe for pedestrians to cross the street safely.
- Bicycle share programs
Bicycle share programs allow riders to pay a small fee to ride a bike from one point to another, leaving the bike at the ride share station. This is a helpful program in urban areas where traffic can make it easier – and faster – to ride a bike than drive a car. Bicycles are good for the environment as they do not emit harmful emissions; bikes are an eco-friendly mode of transportation as well as giving riders the opportunity to get healthy exercise. Bicycle share programs are already in operation in several major metropolitan areas, and are expected to be become more common in the future.
These ten innovations are in addition to electric vehicles and driverless cars, both of which are growing in popularity and pervasiveness. Electric cars are an excellent solution to the issue of the damage to the environment that current fuel sources create. Autonomous vehicles are reported to be safer and increase efficiency.
The future will bring dramatic technological improvements to the transportation sector, many of which are in unchartered terrain. The government may need to get involved and cooperate more closely with private investors, innovators and other stakeholders as an agent of public interest. Transportation has a rich history of both technical and policy innovation, a history that is likely to persist. Transportation is in an upheaval as it struggles to continue to support the prosperity and quality of life of our nation and others on the planet.
Whatever the future of transportation holds, it is clear that it will continue to play an intrinsic role in human history, making the world a safer and more interconnected place. Transportation and logistics firms turn to Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) to analyze the issues facing their industry and find tailored programs to help them manage their risk. With over 100 years of combined transportation industry experience helps MMA professionals understand and address specific challenges within the industry.
Contact us here to learn more about how our innovative programs can make a difference for your organization.