Insights on the Future of Urban Transportation

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Man entering bus

Transportation is changing with remarkable speed. Especially in urban settings, people are coming to expect greater speed, security, and efficiency from their transportation options. It’s no longer enough for everyone in the city to jump into rush hour traffic or crowd onto even the most advanced mass transit systems. These days, completely new ideas are emerging to make urban transportation a new, better experience for everyone who uses it.

The future will include a blend of concepts, including new mass transit and personal vehicles. It will be influenced by the increasing push for environmental responsibility in large machinery as well as trends no one could have predicted ten years ago: The emergence of the electric car, cloud networks, and the Internet of Things to name just a few. While some have predicted that driving as we know it will disappear, the truth is probably more nuanced!

Let’s look at some of the most interesting ideas in transportation today:

Nissan New Mobility Concepts May Transform Personal Transportation

Just how small can a personal vehicle be? Nissan is pushing the envelope on the possible with a new concept car that incorporates some of the hottest transportation trends. The Nissan New Mobility Concepts (NNMC) is 100% electric and just 7.6 feet long. Though it’s slightly bigger than a small motorcycle, three of the new cars can fit into a standard-sized parking space.

Ten of the vehicles are being tested in San Francisco, where the convergence of smart tech and the sharing economy may make them perfect for short trips where trunk space isn’t necessary. The main drawback so far? The car’s top speed is just 25 miles per hour, which limits its road worthiness outside the city center. Still, initial road tests with consumers have been promising.

Rio De Janeiro’s Cable Car System is a Model for Working Within the Environment

Densely-packed urban areas with underprivileged populations, such as the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, are insightful from an urban planning perspective: Residences and community spaces are integrated, making it possible to meet basic needs within a small space. However, Rio – like many other locations throughout Central and South America – has an altitude problem.

Many communities are closely intertwined with mountains, creating unique problems.

In addition to other urban revival efforts, Rio has recently launched a cable car system – Telefirico de Alemao – that cuts the journey time from high-flying favelas to the low-lying city center by up to 75%. Normalizing transit around the favelas not only helps the residents access economic opportunities, but may support the stretch goal of eliminating city center car traffic.

Beyond the Electric Car – Innovative Power Sources May Clean Up the Streets

Recent research suggests that even those electric vehicles powered from the dirtiest parts of the U.S. electricity grid produce less pollution than their gasoline-fueled counterparts. Today, the electric car is experiencing unprecedented acceptance. Charging stations are available throughout the country. Still – the electric car may only be one step on the journey, not the final destination.

In Israel, “switch stations” make it possible to trade in dead batteries, eliminating range anxiety for electric car users. In some areas, electric cars can be used to provide home electric when the power grid is temporarily disrupted. Engineers working with Toyota, however, have an even more impressive concept on the horizon: A car that runs on compressed air.

Ultra-Fast Super Trains May Connect Urban Centers Worldwide

Traffic management issues inside cities are key contributors to gridlock, environmental damage, and public safety issues. Just as important, however, is the way that established and developing urban centers are connected. Smaller communities can be transformed over night when they are suddenly empowered with a reliable way to commute to and from an urban center.

What if that same effect could be applied on an international or even global level?

“Vacuum trains” are designed to use specialized tunnels with all air removed. In theory, their top speed runs to 2,5000 miles per hour. At that rate, it would take only an hour for a traveler from Europe to reach North America. Although initial designs were scarcely faster than maglev trains in Japan and China, teams throughout the U.S. and Asia are now working on new iterations.

One, the “evacuated tube system” proposed by U.S. engineer Daryl Oster, would use six-person capsules.

The City Bus of the Future Could Carry Ten Times as Many Passengers

Thanks to the recent explosion of the national economy, China has quickly become the #1 car market in the world. Of course, China is also the most populous country in the world, creating significant safety and pollution issues as it tries to adapt a culture of personal transportation to its needs. The answer? It may just be found in the “car-swallowing bus.”

The elevated bus, with a concept model recently displayed at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo, can hold up to 1,200 riders. Running on a special track, it can pass harmlessly over the personal vehicles moving at street level. Prototypes have already reached an advanced stage – in fact, the new buses might appear on the streets as soon as 2017.

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