When futuristic cartoon Meet the Jetsons from Hanna Barbera debuted in 1962, it was the first TV show to be broadcast in color on ABC. This made all the futuristic ideas of how we might live modern life in 2062 pop off the screen even more. Today in 2018 we are closer to reaching 2062 than we are to 1962, and many of the technologies depicted in this otherworldly cartoon are already making an impact on our daily lives or will very soon.
The flying car is probably the advanced idea put forward on the show that most people think of first. Everyday George would hop into his flying car that would fold into a briefcase when he got to work for his 3-hour shift at Spacely Sprockets where all he had to do was push 1 button on a very large computer. We are getting fairly close to this (minus the briefcase part, but here’s hoping). Just this past fall German company Volocopter conducted an advanced test flight of its Autonomous Air Taxi in Dubai. Capable of carrying 2 passengers and piloted completely autonomously, Dubai has aggressive plans for large scale utilization of this means of transport within the next 5 years.
Travel in vacuum tubes was another means of transport depicted in this forward thinking cartoon. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One is on the verge of making this a reality. Just last month Virgin got the go-ahead to begin utilizing Musk’s Boring Co. capabilities to construct a tunnel from Washington DC to New York City that will allow travel at speeds of 760 mph to complete the trip in just 26 minutes. San Francisco to LA can take 6 hours by car (if you are lucky). Plans for a Hyperloop out west would take that trip down to 30 minutes. Several players are competing in this space with Musk including Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT). They have signed agreements with 6 different countries around the world to develop Hyperloop systems, including a potential route from Chicago to Cleveland in the US.
HTT’s Hyperloop capsule capable of speeds of 750 mph.
Practical Applications Today
These futuristic advancements in transport are exciting and have the potential to dramatically alter our entire society on a global scale, but what are the more practical applications that we can expect to see impacting our daily life in the next 2 years?
Autonomous vehicles are in the news every day and are being vigorously pursued by every major automaker in the world. Not only are car companies working hard on this, but the most influential tech companies are as well. Google has been working on advancements in this area for years, and Apple is always in the conversation. Ride-sharing platforms like Uber are on the leading edge and have advanced testing of fully autonomous vehicles happening in several US cities.
Drones, or UAVs, are another area that will have some immediate impacts in daily life. We have become an on-demand society in every aspect of our lives. Instead of waiting a week to watch the next episode of our favorite show, we now binge watch a full season of 13 episodes in one sitting! Amazon Prime has also raised the bar of how fast we expect to have our latest purchases dropped on our doorstep from the time we clicked to order online.
Delivery over the last mile to consumers has always been the most challenging logistic, as well as the most expensive part of the transaction. Amazon Prime is rapidly building warehouses in major cities that guarantee 1-2 hour delivery of a growing inventory of items. Drones could rapidly change this game as well. Instead of a truck driving through your neighborhood dropping off packages here and there, a small fleet of drones would be utilized to complete the job much faster.
Amazon Prime Air successfully completed their first deliveries in the UK enabling packages up to 5 pounds to be delivered in less than 30 minutes.
All of these futuristic technologies can deliver numerous benefits to companies, consumers, and our society as a whole. With fully autonomous vehicles we should be able to eliminate the 25,000 fatalities caused by car accidents. The majority of these are caused by human error. Truck drivers could now be in charge of a “train” of as many as 6 tractor trailers following each other closely that could operate 24 hours a day. The “driver” is merely along for the ride as the system would bring the entire string of trucks safely to a stop in the event of any emergency or malfunction.
Think about how many fewer vehicles we would have on the road. Basically, your car is a piece of hardware that sits idle more than 90% of the time. We all have them. Several extensive studies have been done that show on average we would only need one-third of the current vehicles using roadways to efficiently handle demand for travel in a given area. This would eliminate almost all traffic congestion and greatly reduce the need to continue to build more and more infrastructure for more and more cars. This can allow city planners to completely re-imagine how we move around our communities. Instead of a sea of cars and parking spaces we could have more parks and green spaces.
Role of Satellites
Expansion of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations are happening at a quickening pace as costs for manufacture and deployment continue to drop. This is fortunate as the demand for LEO satellite communications continues to accelerate. Every vehicle on the roadway or in the skies will need to be connected to the internet as well as a satellite system to make these advanced concepts possible.
High-Precision Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), when combined with other technology such as LiDAR and on board cameras, can get position change tolerances down to one foot. To be able to facilitate a complete system it will need to be multi-frequency as well as multi-constellation to mitigate any errors and be fail-safe.
All of these advancements in technology will create an increased demand for reliable connectivity. Satellite communications is and will be a critical part of all technologies deployed to make fully autonomous driving possible as well as handle the increased traffic in the skies due to drones and the flying cars that turn into briefcases that we may have by 2062.