We are fast approaching 2019, the setting of the original Blade Runner movie. It depicts a dystopian vision of downtown LA, dimly lit by the glare of neon lights and digital billboards. This 2019 is a world with flying traffic, futuristic gadgets and a threat from human-esque robots or "replicants". Although that world does not feel particularly familiar, the eighties film does bear some similarity to innovations in travel tech in our world today.
1.rise above traffic
Spinners, the flying police cars in Blade Runner, certainly look more efficient than police cars of today – forget sounding the siren and civilians obstructing the road. Issues such as air traffic management and a lack of public trust mean a fleet like this probably won’t be a reality any time soon. Yet there are some exciting Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft (VTOL) on the horizon; the Vahana from aviation titan, Airbus, has been likened to a giant drone designed to pick-up and drop-off passengers from designated rooftops.
Most of us will be familiar with grabbing an Uber to get from A to B, but things are looking up as the company is planning to take its taxis to the sky. UberAIR is a ride-sharing experience (a bit like the Uber Pool concept) that will allow commuters to book electric and emission-free airborne taxis and radically slash travel time. Uber’s target is to make these journeys less expensive than driving your own car. Look out for UberAIR operating in LA in 2020. If this is achieved, that would only be a year behind the original Blade Runner’s prediction of flying transport…
3.driven to the edge
While the idea of a car that drives itself may induce some anxiety, autonomous vehicles actually present the possibility of reduced collisions as well as increasing mobility for those less able. Fitted with sophisticated sensors that can detect pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, driverless cars can respond faster and better than any human driver. Forget having a designated driver. Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project, has developed a car which has already got three million miles of test drives on the clock. It is now inviting early riders in Phoenix to test-drive these cars in everyday life.
Innovations in speed are moving along at an alarming pace. With a goal of reaching 1,000mph, the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car has started running its first public test rides. It has six times the horsepower of all the cars on a formula one starting grid put together and cover a mile in just 3.6 seconds. Meanwhile, Space X, the company of tech wizard Elon Musk, has unveiled plans for the BFR, which aptly stands for ‘Big F**king Rocket’. Musk aims to have four BFR built and ready to head to Mars by 2024. He also wants to use it to make journeys within planet earth such as New York City to Shanghai in 39 minutes. Much quicker than trying to commute on the Northern Line at rush hour.
Photo: Bloodhound SSC
Championed by Elon Musk back in 2012, Hyperloop plans to have its first system in place by 2021. The idea is that passengers are transported in pods that are whizzed along a tube or tunnel propelled by magnetic accelerators. Reaching speeds of up to 700 mph, could get you from LA to Las Vegas in 30 minutes, a journey that takes 3.5 hours by plane. Watch out Usain Bolt. Hyperloop tunnels are also designed with a three metre diametre making their footprint much smaller than that of road or rail.
Photo: Hyperloop One