As 70% of the world’s population is set to be urban by 2050, the stakes involved in solving the problems brought about by inner-city transportation are becoming increasingly high. Combined with the pace of development in network technology and Smart City projects, smart transport companies are now addressing all stages of the market – from personal sharing schemes to new methods of travelling that promote a different kind of society. These five exciting new developments have tackled the problems of parking, congestion and pollution head on, and give us an intriguing insight into the future of the transport industry.
Straight out of a sci-fi film, the Hyperloop is a tube-based transportation system designed to operate both within and between cities. Reducing friction to almost zero through magnetic levitation and propulsion, the system uses less energy and is more energy efficient than other high-speed modes of transportation. The concept was invented by Elon Musk and catalyzed in 2013 when he released a white paper with basic designs which companies have since used to build on and improve. One of such developer, the Hyperloop One, aims to be operational by 2021 and claims speeds of up to 670 mph. If this technology becomes a reality, the Hyperloop could transform the transport industry by creating an alternative with reduced travel times, higher security and increased sustainability. What is also interesting is the open-source origin of Hyperloop, an increasingly popular model in the connectivity sphere, which means that retro-fitting Hyperloop into Smart Cities and internal connected systems is entirely plausible with the right level of interest.
2. Foldable Cars
Wacky but wonderful, CityTransformer’s foldable car is the ultimate solution for reducing traffic and pollution in cities. Driving like a car and parking like a motorcycle, this electric car allows you to drive in designated narrow lanes and to park four vehicles in one car parking space, substantially increasing the number of parking places in cities. Not only does this save time and effort, this light-weight two seater also reduces pollution as the energy used finding a parking space is no longer wasted – when combined with a smart parking system this technology could reinvent the way we view inner city mobility. Equipped with smart and personalized interfaces, CityTransformer imagines that their cars would be part of a smart mobility sharing solution in order to maximize potential, increase environmental impact, while creating the ultimate solution for today’s urban transportation.
Up and running in 10 Spanish cities, the scooter company Muving is already changing the rules of the transport game and, from first hand experience, making it a whole lot more fun. The technology allows customers to unlock electric bikes from all over the city using the Muving app and gives them instantaneous access to a fast, cheap mode of getting around. This ‘Uber’ methodology has resonated with consumers in recent years, removing the stress and waste involved in driving by offering clients a no-strings-attached alternative which cuts out the cost of ownership – gasoline, parking, maintenance, tax – and replaces it with a sustainable, practical, and cost-effective alternative for both cities and users. And if all shared vehicle schemes are this fun to drive, then I don’t see any reason why they won’t take off.
4. Local Motion
Addressing the problems of transport from a wider perspective, Local Motion has created a solution which allows their customers to unlock the full potential of a shared fleet. Creating a perfect balance between accessibility and security, Local Motion offers a system whereby your company badge can unlock a car, even in high-interference areas such as parking lots or urban streets. This allows cars to be shared without any bottlenecks (such as picking up the wrong key), and therefore maximizes the use of the motor pool. The web-based management technology also allows a greater control over the fleet, allowing you to lock and unlock cars remotely, keep track of their location and handle maintenance easily – a crucial tool when moving into the world of fully integrated, city-wide sharing schemes.
5. Tesla’s Shared Fleet
Capitalizing on the fact that we only use our cars around 5% to 10% of the day, Tesla’s plan is to allow owners to sublet their cars to a company shared fleet which any individual could use. The plan would mean that instead of being left unused while you’re away on holiday, or even busy at work, your car can be rented by others to get around. Not only does this help offset the cost of ownership, it also reduces the number of cars needed for any given population by maximizing the capability of existing ones. As one of the earliest advocates of both automated and electric cars, Tesla’s shared vehicles are designed to be both sustainable and smart, allowing customers to summon a Tesla from anywhere and rest assured that their trip to work is building a cleaner, more innovative world.
A hundred years ago, Henry Ford revolutionized transport with the Model T, an innovation which gave average Americans a freedom they could never have imagined. Although different in their approaches, all five of these technologies represent a new idea of transport in which freedom (in this case, freedom to share), whether it be a car, a motorcycle or a train, is also key.
Ultimately, predicting the future of transport is impossible, but these companies shine a light on the changing nature of transport, in which the basic unit – ‘my car’ – has expanded to be more inclusive, to create a transport system which is efficient, integrated and sustainable, and to change the way we interact with a new digitized landscape.