What’s the future of transportation?

04 March 2020

The way we get around has changed a lot – ridesharing and self-parking cars are a far cry from the humble horse and cart. Future transportation is likely to improve passenger comfort, journey times, safety, and environmental impact even further. 

But how will transportation deal with Australia’s rapidly growing population? Congestion costs are predicted to grow to $30 billion by 2030, highlighting a need for future transportation solutions. But what do those look like?

In GIO’s Man in the Know series, futurist Dr. Richard Hames envisions self-driving cars and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. Sound exciting? Let’s peer into what the future of transportation could look like. 

Rideshare apps

Ridesharing apps such as Uber and DiDi have emerged as a popular transport option in recent years. The concept of carpooling is not a new one, but with the help of technological advancements, it’s more sophisticated than ever before. 

With more congestion and growing populations, shared transport offers an affordable alternative to help city dwellers get from A to B. The shift from car ownership to car access may be more commonplace in the future. 

Dr Hames predicts this shift will come about as people realise how much cars are stranded assets: “They’re driven for just 5% of the time and parked the rest.” 

Super trains

Europe and Asia are home to the world’s fastest high-speed trains. The quest for trains that can cross great distances at hundreds of kilometres per hour shows no signs of slowing down. Magnetic levitation (maglev) technology is used around the world, including on a Japanese maglev train that reaches 600km/h. 

In the future, super-maglev trains could take this to the next level by reducing air friction, using a vacuum tube for increased speeds. Even better, these super trains may be just around the corner. A super-maglev train is proposed to reduce the journey from Washington to New York from three hours to just one hour or less. 

Smart roads

To help make roads safer, we might start to see smart roads connected to the internet of things (IoT). The IoT is a system of connected devices that can transfer information without human interaction. For example, your smart fridge sending a notification to your mobile device to let you know you’re almost out of milk. 

In the future, we may be able to set up sensors on IoT-enabled roads. These sensors could communicate with smart cars on the best ways to stay safe. This technology could also be used as an electrified track that charges electric vehicles.  

Hydrogen-fuelled cars and public transport 

Increasing fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are front and centre in transportation innovation. Today, electric cars are deemed one of the most environmentally sustainable options, but will electric cars be the long-term answer? Some futurists believe that hydrogen fuel cells will be the primary energy source for vehicles and public transport. 

While hydrogen vehicles themselves don’t emit greenhouse gases, how the hydrogen that fuels them is produced is critical to their environmental impact. The US Department of Energy reports that vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel produced from natural gas can cut total greenhouse gas emissions in half compared with today’s petrol vehicles. 

Dr. Hames believes the long-term future of urban transport is hydrogen fuel cells and not electric vehicles. Even the Australian Government’s Business Cooperative Research Centres Programme predicts that we will see large-scale development of hydrogen technologies from 2030 onwards.  

Self-driving vehicles 

Self-driving vehicles (also known as autonomous vehicles) could be a big part of future transportation. We’re already seeing autonomous vehicle technology, such as self-parking systems, built into many cars on the road today. Self-driving vehicles currently in development by major tech and automobile companies could become commonplace sooner than you may think. 

Dr. Hames predicts that by 2030, around 80% of urban transport will be through shared autonomous vehicles. Fast-forward another couple of decades to 2050, and he says that “car manufacturers [can] expect driverless vehicles to be the primary form of urban transportation.” 

One of the benefits of autonomous vehicles could be their impact on accidents. Dr. Hames believes that the “90% of road accidents that are caused by driver error will be greatly reduced” with self-driving vehicles.

According to the Australian Government’s Transport and Australia’s Development to 2040 and Beyond, these new driverless technologies could also: 

  • improve accessibility for people with disabilities, young inexperienced drivers, and the elderly
  • free up parking space for urban development
  • make better use of existing infrastructure, and
  • reduce infrastructure costs. 

While some of these concepts might seem a bit out there and far off, you can make sure you’re future-ready by choosing the best cover for your car. GIO offers a range of Car Insurance options to help you find something that suits your budget and needs. 

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

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