Luxmobiles and flying unicorns: how diversification and proliferation will rule the routes

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While it’s all go for robotic systems in the automotive space right now, we seem to be suffering from collective linear thinking — that a driverless car is like a car, just without a driver. In reality nothing will be further from the truth, for a number of reasons not least that current designs are built around the need for multi-use, protecting people sitting in a certain configuration and so on. When you can click your fingers and get a ‘mobility solution’ along in five minutes, chances are it will be designed more around single-need, safe and efficient use.

This requirement for flexibility influences most aspects of car-based transport today, as well as logistical transportation. The latter is also impacted by restrictions caused by the notion of a driver: so, while container trucks may be able to deliver their modular loads, they still have face-forward cabins.

To understand the future of vehicular transport, we need to consider a world in which all such restrictions are removed, or at least applied differently depending on the payloads being carried. Airbags will still be vital for people for example, but not so much for pizzas or car parts.

With this in mind, what kinds of vehicles can we expect to see? With no evidence in fact (that’s the great thing about speculation), we just might see the following come to our road- and other-ways:

Luxmobiles and budget pods. As the model moves from multi-vehicle ownership to single-vehicle with the increased use of autonomous transport, it seems inevitable that people will look to brands so they can travel (particularly longer distances) in comfort. At the same time, this may be overkill when nipping to the shops or sending the kids to school. If indeed, we still do the former, given…

Pizza box scooters. For efficiency reasons, robot vehicles will inevitably tend towards being as small as possible, to the extent that they may become little bigger than the objects they are transporting. With echoes of Han Solo tripping over droids in Star Wars, this situation is highly likely to become a nightmare as our transport corridors become saturated with tiny vehicles, potentially leading to…

Drone swarms. Okay, some level of control will be needed, particularly for consignments that are to travel by air. Scheduling efficiency and autonomous transport governance may well lead to groups of robot transport moving en masse, either under their own steam or indeed, using some more powerful mechanism for the longer hauls. Indeed, this could result in…

Super Strings. I was thinking about massive people movers, then I remembered, oh wait, they are called trains. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some Smart Alexa doesn’t come up with a standardized, mechanical or magnetic coupling device that enables a string of automobiles to travel long distances with a lot less fuel. Of course, these are not restricted only to land or sky, with…

Public Subs. Our once-disused waterways and canal systems could find a new lease of life carrying smaller loads across very long distances, very efficiently, on or under the surface. The upside is that they will have minimal disruption effect on the visual environment; however their more general impact would need to be monitored as with other, diversifying forms of transport including…

Late Night Vompods. Not every consequence of autonomous transport will be positive. As a discussion with my son revealed, the notion of being able to hitch a ride home after a few drinks (good, safer etc) needs to be weighed against the potential for spillages, or worse, by drunken revellers. A more serious aspect is how to ensure the personal safety of passengers, for example against unwarranted advances. On the upside, at least we will have…

Flying Unicorns. No reason exists why vehicles need to be restricted to roads, or even wheels, as advances in robotics offer the potential to use routes without tarmac. Legislation is currently unclear on whether a parcel-carrying bipedal robot would be permitted to use a public footpath. Or indeed, in quadruped form, a forest path. Or indeed, if fitted with propellors (or wings), whether it could lift itself over rivers and gates. Such a ‘vehicle’ would blend into the environment better if it was given more natural form (say a horse), then the question would be where to put the antenna…

While none of these examples may manifest themselves in practice, diversification is the name of the game; we can also expect proliferation, indeed this is pretty much guaranteed due to the law of unexpected volumes (a corollary of the law of lowering thresholds, where a new technology or service is used to its absolute maximum).

Yes, it’s going to be a noisy, trip-hazard-filled nightmare. But at least we will have pizza.

 

(Image credit: Alex Halbi/Thingverse.)

2 Comments

Hemang

Automation is the need of an hour. Though it is poised to eat the human jobs, however with increasing competition, every business sector is looking to adopt robotics, IoT or similar automation technology. The article explains beautifully on what would change with the help of automation. You will just require mobile phones and the custom apps will take over the human efforts.

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Thanks for sharing such a good article and for informative things. Your articles are really amazing and I got a lot of information and guidance reading them. It helped me a lot and I will surely follow your article techniques. Waiting for more useful updates and new things

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