June 06 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation Year: General Rating: 11 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
In the sci-fi movie Minority Report cars drive themselves, maneuvering unaided through traffic. Though the film represents a more distant future, amazing cars like these could be parked in your garage as early as 2020.
Imagine making the 270-mile trip from Los Angeles to Los Vegas in tomorrow’s “smart” car. You hop in your car, tell it your destination, and off you go. Traveling on an automated highway system, sensors guide you in complete safety, at speeds up to 140 mph. You sit in the driver’s seat, but the car does the driving. For your part, you kick back; read a newspaper, browse the Internet, watch TV, or take a nap. In less than two hours, you arrive in Las Vegas relaxed and ready for fun.
Some of the technology necessary to make this future happen is already in our vehicles; cruise control, load-leveling, and satellite navigation. The two steps that remain – allowing computers to actually pilot the car, and developing the automated highway system – are being tested now on a ten mile Interstate highway strip near San Diego. Electronics in the roadway are detected by sensors located in test cars, which feeds steering information to the car’s computer.
In the wake of the computer and information revolutions, motor vehicles are undergoing the most dramatic changes in capabilities and how they interact with drivers since the early 1900s. The U.S. Department of Transportation is spending more than $1 billion a year to develop “human-centered” smart vehicles and intelligent highway systems. The DOT believes this technology is essential to handling the vast number of vehicles expected on tomorrow’s roads. (cont.)
“Smart cars,” traveling at 140 mph, with six feet of space between cars, and protected by collision-avoidance radar, would permit up to triple the number of vehicles to use roadways safely. This high-speed/high-capacity driving technology will relieve congestion, lower pollution, reduce the need for additional highways, and save lives by eliminating accidents.
While cars are fine for short trips, for longer journeys we may want to take a magnetically-levitated train. The world’s first “maglev” train service began on January 1, 2003 cruising between Pudong and Shanghai, China reaching speeds over 300 mph. Trials are currently underway in Germany and Japan, and U.S. groups have proposed Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Boston-New York-Washington DC routes.
A submerged oceanic tunnel suggested by MIT’s Frank Davidson would someday zip a maglev train under the Atlantic at speeds up to 4,000 mph. Passengers would travel from New York to London in about an hour.
Will this future happen? Experts say yes. By 2015, first generation “smart” vehicles will avoid collisions. By 2020, second generation voice recognition vehicles will drive unassisted on automated highways. By 2025, third generation vehicles will receive commands from muscle impulses, eye movements, and brain waves, creating a personal human-vehicle relationship. And by 2030, maglev trains could speed to any continent in the world in 2 hours or less.
Go “magical future.” Comments welcome.