There is so much going on in the world in terms of exciting changes to our transportation infrastructure that it is sometimes worthwhile taking a step back to see both where we’ve been and some of the cutting edge changes that are both on the horizon and actually being implemented.
Some of us live in cities and some in the suburbs and, then again also, some of us live farther away than that in rural areas.
In most suburbs, and certainly in rural areas in the US, having access to a car is almost a necessity. For those of us living in cities, especially in older cities like New York City, there are extensive public transportation systems that make car use unnecessary (subways, buses, intercity trains and even planes).
While existing public transportation systems in metropolitan areas are being extended and updated, modernized, there are also some extremely exciting things happening for the future. Self-driving cars are one of them.
In the above, we’ve touched on the concept of self-driving cars and that these aren’t decades away but maybe less than one-decade away. Another interesting aspect of our travels is getting from city to city.
Sure there are buses and trains (Amtrak in the US). But, when we talk high-speed, the real leader is China, where the government is spending billions upon billions building a tremendously complete and comprehensive network.
In China, this is a tiered structure where the highest speed trains connect the biggest and most major cities (there are over 25 cities in China with populations of more than 10 million people and 10 million people is the entire population of European countries like Portugal or the Czech Republic).
Will high speed rail service come to the US? We don’t know, but in China it has already happened and, while China is the world’s largest car market, it has also made rail construction a key part of its urban development plans.
There is even a futuristic magnetic levitation train operating in China, the Shanghai Maglev Train, which has reached speeds of 311 miles per hour.
This train, and much of China’s high-speed network, has brought together the latest technologies from a number of global companies.
Policy makers like Governor Brown in California are pushing for a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco – and, as hub of the latest technology, one would think California’s political leadership would be out front in accepting new ideas. But sadly, this appears not to be true in terms of high-speed rail in California.
Governor Brown is still pushing to build a traditional high-speed rail line while Elon Musk has shown him (and the world) something truly exciting – his Hyperloop train. We are not just talking “high speed”, we are talking incredible “hyper speed”. Forget about 150 -200 miles per hour, Musk is talking about 800 miles per hour – fast enough to take someone from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes. Sadly, Musk’s idea is still on the drawing board.
Where, What and When?
These are the big questions. In terms of technology, there are people like Mary Nichols, head of the state’s Air Resources Board who recently came out (in early August) saying she’d like to see every new car in California be a zero-emission vehicle by 2030.
One of the great things about the future is we can see realistic possibilities that only 20-30 years ago would have been thought of as science fiction. To take us back, we can only think of how Walt Disney built his first monorail as part of Tomorrow Land in his first theme park in California in the 1959.