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This Is The Future Of Driverless Vehicles

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driverless carAs self-driving cars continue to advance and are beginning to appear on roadways for testing, people are starting to come around to the fact that driverless vehicles will soon be a reality. While at first it might seem scary to cede control to a machine, there’s an argument to be made that automated vehicles will perform more consistently than human-driven ones. Every time I bike or drive through Boston traffic, the single scariest aspect I encounter is road-rage, and I’d happily nominate this city’s drivers to turn over the controls to an emotionless computer and object-detecting sensors. Still, the future of self-driving vehicles is difficult to imagine, especially when it comes to its implications, which is why international design firm IDEO recently published a study called “The Future of Automobility,” which combines research and speculation about the future of automated transportation.

IDEO offers three different visions with regards to the future of transit: driverless vehicles, delivery service, and workspaces. The team tried to “take into account business, technology and disability lenses as [they] spot patterns that indicate how things may play out in the future.” One of the points the team makes is that in the future, people may not simply own vehicles—they might instead own access to vehicles. That possibility makes a lot of sense in conjunction with the rise of companies such as Zip Car and Uber. Services that deliver both people and goods will be greatly enhanced. Instead of calling and waiting for a vehicle, they’ll be equipped with software that allows them to process information from texts and calendars to anticipate where customers will be and when. Users will be able to plan everything from a pick-up time and location to the music for the ride.

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Help Fund Electricity-Generating Solar-Powered Roads

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SolarRoadsIf you have a time-traveling DeLorean, you may not need roads, but the rest of us still do. And after this winter especially, those roads may be cracked to pieces, making biking and driving particularly unpleasant. But if U.S. company Solar Roadways has its way, those — and a host of other problems related to conventional roadways — will be problems of the past.

Solar Roadways has developed electricity-generating solar-powered panels made of tempered glass that can withstand the weight of traffic. They can do all kinds of stuff, including melt snow and ice by using embedded heating elements. They can house cables and power lines, eliminating the need to run them above-ground where they’re subject to the elements. The five colors of LEDs that operate via two-way microprocessors can warn of road dangers and lead to smart parking lots and roads. These panels will also help pave the way for driverless vehicles, as well as electric vehicles, which these panels would help charge. Solar Roadways says that, if implemented on a wide scale, these roads could provide enough clean, renewable energy to power the country, thereby diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

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I Want To Ride My Bicycle—Into The Future

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Aerofex hoverbikeFuturists think a lot about what transportation might look like. Will we travel via bullet train or hyperloop? Who and what will take us to space? Are those hoverboards coming anytime soon? jetpacks? In the future, I plan to keep riding my bike, I’ll pass on that smartwheel, thank you very much. The bike as we know it, however, might look drastically different, and they’ll likely be able to do all kinds of things bikes of today can’t.

For cyclists who think that turning wheels on the ground has gotten old, there’s a hover bike in the works. Aerofex is working on a “bike” that looks more like Annakin’s pod racer from The Phantom Menace. Powered by ducted fans, it reaches heights of approximately 15 feet. There’s a conceptual prototype, and the company is now developing a usable version. But unless you’re on Tatooine, the hover bike probably won’t ever enter the consumer market.

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The Fifth Element’s MultiPass Is About To Debut In The U.K.

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MultiPassI remember driving to Canada and back with only my U.S. driver’s license as ID. It was super handy — it meant that I could go to Canada on a whim, which as an under-age college student in Michigan was often the best antidote to a depressingly sober weekend night. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to travel without paperwork and a bunch of different cards and passes? Thanks to a little inspiration from the sci-fi film The Fifth Element, the MultiPass may become a reality.

The pass is more than just identification — it could be used for transportation (even flights, as it has a barcode), which would mean that people could ditch their rail passes and Oyster cards (London’s top-up style metrocard). Better still, the Multipass would eliminate the annoying process of trying to find cheap fares — because it’s an e-cloud system, it could automatically lock in the cheapest rates. The card could even be used to pay for parking and snacks.

Almost every aspect of the pass, including its name, is inspired by The Fifth Element. In that movie, the pass functions as an all-purpose ID that, among other things, allows Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo to board a spacecraft. Maybe someday the real-life version will do that, but for now it would be an e-cloud-based ticket/travelcard combo with an “e-ink” screen (the kind of screen that found on e-readers and sometimes smartphones). The idea is to simplify life by reducing the number of cards and passes people have to carry, and to reduce inconvenience associated with standing in line to top-up a transportation pass.

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300-MPH Bullet Train May Come To The East Coast

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MaglevFor a long time, North Americans have looked with longing and envy at Asia’s high-speed maglev trains, also known as bullet trains. Now it looks like this technology could finally be coming to American shores.

Japan developed this train system back in the 60s, when we were focused on space technology. Today they have the world’s fastest train, capable of traveling at over 300 miles per hour. Shanghai’s 268 mph train began service in 2004. China has the longest high-speed rail network in the world, with just under 6,000 miles of track for trains that run at speeds of at least 124 mph. South Korea’s got a high-speed rail system, as does most of Europe. Brazil has been working on a maglev system since 2009.

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From Los Angeles To San Francisco In 30 Minutes: The Future Is A Hyperloop

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Hyperloop AlphaI spend a lot of time thinking about modes of travel. I’m a bike commuter and I travel a lot, passing a fair number of hours on planes, trains, boats, and buses. And automobiles, just to round it out. The train is, in my opinion, by far the superior method of transit, made even better because it’s actually possible to sleep on a train. Trains in the U.S., though, kind of suck (sorry, Amtrak), especially when compared to trains in Asia or Europe. But all that’s about to change. We hope.

Elon Musk, CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors and spacecraft producer SpaceX, as well as the founder of Paypal (yeah, this dude’s doing okay) just announced plans for a revolutionary train system that will allow people to get from L.A. to San Francisco (because really, who would go the other direction?) in 30 minutes. It’s the “Hyperloop” transport system, and if that name doesn’t convince you that this idea is awesome, I don’t know what will.

Musk’s proposed Hyperloop system involves shooting people through tubes at high speeds. Sound familiar?