Transport technology of the future around the world

13 June 2018

If the thought of booking a driverless car service to the airport, or boarding a self-driving train to work sounds a little bit farfetched, you will be surprised to find that the future is closer than you think. In a technological climate that George Jetson would approve of, the face of our roads is rapidly changing. Auto manufacturers, tech giants and government bodies are working together to bring digital disruption to our roads in unexpected ways.

While Silicon Valley is the undoubted epicentre of digital innovation, there are plenty of examples both close to home and abroad, where engineering, design and algorithms are shaping the way we all move. Here are some of the technologies across the world that may be available to you soon.

Trains, United Kingdom

2018 has seen the maiden journey for the first self-driving train on the London Thameslink route, set to be a regular transport option for London commuters from 2019. For now, the train’s journey will still be managed by a human driver but the new automated train technology will sync train journeys, increasing passenger capacity and speed through beacon technology and an improved digital signalling system.

London is consistently rated as suffering from the worse traffic congestion in Europe, so the speed offered by self-driving train technology will provide a welcome change for the travel-weary Londoners.

Cargo droids, Italy

Ever get the feeling there’s something following you? Maybe it’s one of the new modern personal cargo droids that’s launched in Italy in 2017. The company behind the iconic Vespa scooter has created a mobile droid that looks like it stepped out of a sleek design catalogue.

The robotic personal assistant follows a pace behind you as you go about your day like a backpack on wheels, helpfully carrying your things so you can be hands-free.

Cargo droids can also make delieveries on your behalf – like a modern-day carrier pigeon, this 2-wheeled robot is likely to find more sophisticated applications as the technology evolves.

Source: Piaggio Fast Forward

Taxis, Singapore

As self-driving car prototypes become safer and more sophisticated, the vision of human-driven cars sharing the road with self-driving cars is coming to life. This is particularly apparent in Singapore.

In 2018, a robo-taxi fleet is set to take flight, servicing a large geographic chunk of the Southeast Asian city-state.

So what can passengers expect from this futuristic service? According to the tech start-ups, driverless car fleets will be safer and more efficient than regular taxis. The main issue that hangs in the balance would appear to be the ethical dilemmas presented by this new driving reality. One thing’s for sure, the law is going to have to be speedy in its progression to reflect a radically new environment.

Source: nuTonomy

Mining trucks, Western Australia

In our own backyard, there’s large-scale innovation taking place in the Pilbara mines of remote Western Australia. With the introduction of robust AI technology, one mining giant is retrofitting a fleet of 19 iron-ore haul trucks to be fully automated.

This is expected to deliver a cost-saving benefit in the billions, as well as greater safety on the mines – a boom for this heavy-lifting industry.

Copyright © 2018 Rio Tinto

Automated shuttlebus, Sydney

In the cities, automated transport is more likely to carry people than iron ore. One example is the trial of an automated shuttle bus in and around the area of Olympic Park in Sydney. With strong backing from the state government as well as university partners, this shuttle bus is set to be a valuable case study on how automated travel is able to work in our city streets – with cars, cyclists and pedestrians to contend with.

Source: Transport for New South Wales

Across the globe, driverless and automated transport technology is making its presence felt. There are many questions still hanging in the balance – how will all these options really work on our roads? What are the risks and what can we expect to gain? Only time will tell, but the ride will be a fascinating one.

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