We have planes, trains and cars to help us travel the globe but these technologies are old and have successfully carried us through the 20th century. Here is a look at ten alternative, or rather improvements, to the transport sector that we could see sooner than expected.
1. Martin Jetpack
This creation has been called the world’s first practical jetpack and has also been one of TIME magazine’s top 50 inventions of 2010. Glenn Martin, a New Zealander, has been working on his jetpack design for over 30 years, and it’s almost ready for commercial sale. The Martin Jetpack is powered by ducted fans and can fly for up to 30 minutes at a time. It has a maximum speed of about 46 mph, and can reach altitudes of 3,000 feet. It will be available for personal use by mid-2014. Martin Jetpack will retail at $200,000.
Tel Aviv is a bustling city with a major traffic problems. That’s why they have set the goal of building an aerial magnetic public transportation in the near future. SkyTran will run on metal tracks 20 feet above the ground, although they won’t actually be “on” the tracks. The podular cars will hang below the tracks, floating on a friction-free path thanks to maglev (magnetic levitation) technology. Passengers will be able to use a smartphone app to call a car to the nearest station that can run independently and will take riders as close to their destination as tracks allow.
This concept vehicle is sleek and streamlined and shaped almost like a motorcycle, but it’s also enclosed, with plenty of room for luggage, and it can be powered by either batteries, bio-fuel, or a fuel cell. You can drive it manually or let it navigate itself on certain dedicated pathways. It drives on four wheels, but tilts up on two for easy parking, and is also collapsible.
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 and travel in outer space. It would be able to take off from any runway in the world, and could carry 300 passengers from London to Sydney in four hours. Or it could be used to drop off a load of up to 15,000 kilograms (33,000 lb) in outer space. If everything goes well, we could see first fully functional prototype by 2017.
Surprisingly, a zip-line commute could soon become reality with this concept put forth by Martin Angelov at the TEDx conference in Thessaloniki in 2010. Angelov envisions a network of wires crisscrossing the skies, allowing people to zip from place to place. Travelers using Kolelinio would fasten themselves into a battery-powered seat dangling from a taut steel wire and go whizzing along, staying close to the ground in pedestrian zones and rising higher in areas with traffic.
In 2006, Toronto unveiled plans for a “high-speed, all-season, pollution-free, ultra-quiet transit system that makes people healthier.” Basically an advanced level biking path. The idea was designed by Toronto architect Chris Hardwicke, and involved building an elevated, three-lane tube for bikes. The tubes would be separated by direction, allowing for air circulation that would create a tailwind. Efficiency of the bikers could be improved by as much as 90 percent, and they could reach speeds of 30 mph. The idea was shelved due to lack of funding.
Supercavitation is an effect created when a layer of gas bubbles is formed around an object inside a liquid, such as the submerged hull of a boat surrounded by bubbles. The gas reduces friction by up to 900 times less than the normal amount. A supercavitating boat, therefore, would be a tremendous asset to any navy fleet. In addition to high speeds with relatively low fuel expenditure, it’s speed and shape would make it difficult for sonar to detect. It could even outrun torpedoes.
8. Nuclear Powered Cars
There is an American company that’s powering headlong into the radioactive transportation business. For years, Laser Power Systems (LPS) has been touting the benefits of thorium, which is a radioactive element largely responsible for generating the heat at the center of the Earth. While nations are busy researching thorium for use in nuclear power plants, LPS is planning to build a car engine that’s powered by a single, small chunk of the radioactive material. An eight-gram nugget could power a car for a century.
Part taxi, part Segway, part origami construction with an emphasis on social interaction, Next is the next step to Google’s self-driving car. The idea is that you use your smartphone to call Next, and a self-driving module comes to pick you up. You slide into the vehicle and your module scoots along on four wheels until it meets up with a group of other modules. While your seat stays upright, the module rears up on two wheels to connect to the group forming a train and unhooks once you’ve reached your destination.
Elon Musk is the man responsible for Tesla Motors, SpaceX and PayPal, and now he’s about to make a change in the world of public transportation. He recently unveiled his idea of an ultra-fast, city-to-city transport system that could get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 35 minutes. Hyperloop is described as an elevated steel tube containing aluminum capsules that would travel at speeds over 760 mph. The solar powered system would carry both people and cars, but the major drawback is the startup price of $70 billion. But despite this, plans have been set to complete a prototype by the first quarter of 2015.