How people travel is set to undergo a sea change in the next few years. Transport companies have been experimenting with new modes of transportation that will not only cut the time spent on travelling but also reduce the carbon footprint.
Hoverbike: Inspired by Luke Skywalker's Hoversurf S3 in the Star Wars movies, California-based aerospace engineering firm Aerofex has developed a hoverbike called Aero-X that hovers 12 feet above the ground, while moving at speeds of up to 72kmph. Powered by electricity and propelled by two horizontal fans called rotors on the front and back, Aero-X can fly over any surface with a passenger load of up to 140kg. It is priced at $85,000 (approx ?58 lakh) and is available for pre-order.
Hyperloop: Fixed-line transportation such as trains and metros are beset with issues. With Hyperloop technology, users will be able to travel a lot faster from one city to another. In Hyperloops, passengers are loaded into a pod, which glides through a low pressure tube powered by electric propulsion, at 10 times the speed of existing rail networks. Richard Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One has signed an agreement with the Maharashtra government to build a Hyperloop route between Mumbai and Pune by 2024.
Multicopter: Commuting by air will get easier. German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter has developed a multicopter in collaboration with Intel. Unlike a full-fledged helicopter, Volocopter 2X runs on electricity, is powered by 18 noise-free rotors and can be manoeuvred by anyone with a single joystick. It can also fly autonomously, allowing users to relax. Volocopter 2X's test flight was successfully conducted in Dubai in 2017.
Elevated buses: To ease traffic congestion, authorities in China are experimenting with a new transit elevated bus system in which the compartment carrying the passengers is a lot more elevated from the ground than existing bus systems, allowing cars to pass underneath them. Even if the buses stop to pick up passengers, they will not interrupt the movement of smaller vehicles. A pilot test was carried out in China in 2016.
Brain-assisted cars: Japanese carmaker Nissan is working on Brain-to-Vehicle technology to make autonomous cars safer. It will let users' thoughts overrule the car's self-driving mechanism and take control of actions such as turning the steering wheel or applying brakes.
This technology will let the car interpret a user's brain signal and feed it instantly into the car's system. The user will have to wear a helmet embedded with brain sensors.
The technology was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Next-gen bullet trains: While India plans to have a bullet train by 2022, the Central Japan Railway Co., is raising the concept of a bullet train to the next level with the Shinkansen Supreme. Expected to debut in 2020, the model has a sharper nose design to reduce air resistance and minimise noise when the train is entering a tunnel.
The Shinkansen Supreme uses silicon carbide conductors, which make it lighter by 11 tonnes compared to existing bullet trains.
The natural cooling system will also reduce power consumption.