Thinking of Transportation

To & From

Amtrak is slow. Hover-cars don't exist, neither do hover-boards. Flights can be the worst. And then there's driving. Personally a time will come (soon) where my work will have me frequenting back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco, an Amtrak trip will last all day (12 hours 10 minutes), driving is 6 hours (depending on traffic), and a flight is about an hour and 15 minutes (not counting boarding and deplaning). It's quite a bit and though I don't always mind the scenic drives that can seriously get taxing, then there's the 12 hour train ride that would allow me to complete a great deal of work though being on a train for that period of time is something I'd rather not do. Lastly there's the flight to and from which is ideal though there are other time considerations that should be taken into account with the hour or so long trip. 

I'm envious of Japan and their bullet trains, it's something that the U.S. could've implemented years ago and yet there's an ongoing issue with regard to the high speed rail network being built in California to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles and these issues are political as all issues related to creating infrastructure that takes human beings into the late 20th early 21st centuries, conceivably it's pathetic and there's really no in between. Though the high speed rail system is moving forward in the slowest way imaginable one can be glad there's some sort of forward momentum

We've essentially been stuck with a regular pattern of transportation methods for decades, there's been little to no improvement, costs have risen with regard to airfare (though there's been a recent drop which doesn't seem as evident as many would suggest), the cost of gas is ridiculous to the point where an average of $3.40/gallon is accepted as the norm. These are the factors many deal with on a daily basis in an environment that has fostered several technological innovations and yet, constantly dealing with airports and flight delays remains what can essentially be labeled as "normal". However new trends in technological innovations surrounding transportation has not only increased but slowly being adopted and presented to the world at large.

Hyperloop

A few years ago Elon Musk released plans for a transportation system that a lot of people mocked, it was considered ridiculous considering that the method of traveling across the state/country in a vacuum tube is too "out there". Though the ridicule was all over the place many people failed to realize this is coming from a person who brought us Tesla (who I'll get to in a moment), and help finance First Solar, along with Space X. People shouldn't forget that Elon Musk is in his own right a visionary that has accomplished quite a bit that would suggest maybe there's something to this Hyperloop concept. 

After a great deal of research by various teams the concept will be taken further leading to test tracks built in California and Texas. Test tracks built will actually be full sized models to test, tweak, monitor, and modify over time. The conceptual idea of a new wave of transportation is only mocked because of the varying unknowns; how much will it cost to build? (estimates suggest a little less than half of the cost of the California high speed rail system), is it safe? (that's why the test tracks are being built), where will it travel to? (likely starting in California and expanding), and so on. 

Coincidentally, the system doesn't use fuel or fossil fuels, this is a system that will be powered by solar panels, wind power, and energy that's made by the varying pods as they travel through the hyperloop tubes. This is another major factor in sustainability and cost efficiency, where airlines tend to raise prices with relation to an increase in fuel costs as well as their overall greed, the utilization of a transport system such as the hyperloop would likely have low margins.

If the test tracks go according to plan there's a likelihood that after a 2-3 years of extensive testing and trial runs, if proven to be cost efficient and successful companies may move forward in building out the hyperloop express way transporting people as well as cargo. It's not implausible if anything this is essentially just a matter of time. I wouldn't be surprised that an announcement is made at the tail end of 2017 that after successful trials and safety measures a full scale track will be built beginning in 2018 ready by 2020.

Tesla, Google, Apple, & Uber?

Tesla was supposed to be a failure, it was lauded as a company that will eventually become irrelevant, Elon Musk (that guy again) was viewed as a joke when the company began and went public. Interestingly (and overall good news), the company has been successful, and will continue along it's growth with the next model Tesla Model X on it's way in the next few months, followed by the Model 3. 

One of the things I've argued in the past is that in order for electric cars to truly be successful there must be a chain of charging stations that eclipse and eventually surpass that of gas stations around the country. It's clear Musk had this same thought as Tesla charging stations are growing around the country, though third party vendors should help in developing these stations as well that could help in reaching this milestone.

The intriguing piece of Tesla that has recently been introduced is the new Autopilot system, in the Model S available as a software upgrade (ponder that for a moment). Similar to how one may upgrade their iPhone from iOS 8 to iOS 9, this is a method that has been utilized by Tesla. Though there are "surveys" (that should be taken with a grain a salt as usual) that suggest people aren't ready for driverless cars, considerably one would argue people are more dangerous than algorithms in self driving vehicles, self driving vehicles are essentially inevitable with recent laws passed by California and Nevada allowing for self driving cars on public roads. 

Though the autopilot feature in Tesla vehicles are presently minor the technology and features will eventually grow allowing for full autonomous driving. It's the same thing Google is presently investigating and testing thoroughly with their own vehicles that unfortunately look like a fisher price toy. There's also popular ride sharing start-up Uber who aim to develop their own self driving technology where one must wonder if the Taxi industry weren't too afraid of the company before one must wonder what they'll think in the next few years when Uber puts out a press release stating that select markets will have self-driving vehicles with expansions to follow months after. 

Then there's Apple, who has started arguments amongst many with whether the company really is building their own vehicle (based on my research, understanding, and a bit of logic they're clearly building a car). It's not hard to understand why, consider that no one knows what transportation will look like in the next five years and if these companies are given that time there could be many surprises to come.

Hypothetical or Eventuality?

The reason airlines aren't discussed is because it's clear they have no intention on innovation in air travel, this is something that will likely come from others similar to Musk where they see an overall issue an have the financial means to investigate and put a plan together to disrupt the airline industry and one would imagine this may come from Virgin Galactic or Space X.

Until then consider for a moment that in the next 5-10 years (at the most 15), that you're traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles (my eventual route as stated above), while you're home your phone or watch suggests how long it will take to reach the Hyperloop station based on current traffic conditions you load your things into your Apple car, and it drives off with you in the passenger or "driver" seat free to work on a document, have a brief video conference, or whichever task to be done.

Upon reaching the station you unload your things from your car and it drives itself back to your home and charges automatically. As you board the Hyperloop Pod and reach Los Angeles an Uber is called up and arrives as your Pod makes it to the station (how will you know this specific self driving Uber is for you? Potentially Bluetooth LE, NFC, along with Beacon technology will allow your watch or phone lead you to your vehicle suddenly it unlocks as you reach the door). The self driving Uber takes you to your destination and the process is reversed when going back to San Francisco. 

In all likelihood this could become the norm, there'll be push back as there always when there's something new and seemingly too far fetched or "futuristic" to be real or considered safe. I don't necessarily have too many issues with this potential outcome, the only issue revolving around all of these things is how secure the operating systems are, how much of a desire will hackers have to infiltrate these systems and cause havoc?

There will be a multitude of questions surrounding the onslaught of new, safe, reliable methods of transportation, and in all likelihood they'll be answered. I just wish it would come sooner than later, and hope with all hope the political laziness and the uneducated don't derail what many could benefit from.