!NOTICE: This article may not be completely proofread!
Transportation and delivery may be seen as two distinct types of transportation. The second one seems like a more complicated one since it should connect products with individuals, while the first one it should, in theory at least, connect mostly important places (regions from planet Earth). Delivery it is also dependent on the request and its accuracy must be close to perfect if you intend to have a functional delivery system. If I want that item that is not produced near where I live, the delivery systems should be able to get it to my door. And quick please 🙂
But the technology is the same for both when it comes to autonomous control. A car that drives itself can transport people and also deliver products at your door. Or a drone technology that can be both used for mass transit on airplanes or as a delivery system.
It is also important, almost crucial to understand, that both of them depend on the infrastructure. In a TVP city model, the delivery and transportation systems should be way less simple overall to build, reliable and much less energy consuming due to the circular structure of the city. What I will try to demonstrate though with today’s technology is the ability of such systems to be both reliable and autonomous no matter the infrastructure. I suppose that, if we show that such systems are extremely capable in our present chaotic infrastructures, they will definitely be able to serve in a TVP-like infrastructure.
Transportation and Delivery:
If you want to go from point A to point B, anywhere in the world, you must find a way to do it without any major efforts. Even if you will have to opt out for 2-3 or even more transfers to go to that place, it should be a way to do it. Of course lets be reasonable, if you think that going from ANY point A to point B on planet Earth can be accomplished completely using machines, it is quite a bit unreasonable at least for today. But such situations should be covered by foot to arrive at or simply cannot be arrived at by humans. Try to get to the bottom of the ocean at very deep sights or climbing on Everest using only machines to carry you out there. Would be quite a challenge if not an impossible task.
So let’s transform this general term of “transportation” into something that we all understand, that is: transportation between habitable places.
- The autopilot: Sensors and The Feedback Loop.
- Self-Sustainable Systems and Expanding Examples.
- Human Interaction.
- Imagination Salad.
The Autopilot: Sensors and the Feedback Loop.
You know that scene from movies when something bad happens to the pilots and one of the passengers take control over the plane and safely land it being guided by the control tour ? Well that never happens because almost all airplanes today are capable to take off, drive and land by themselves. Autonomously. No one will rely on people with no experience to do that. (http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:automation , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autopilot).
Nearly all commercial aircraft are equipped with instruments called automatic pilots. Autopilots are used in aircraft, boats (known as self-steering gear), spacecraft, and others. Autopilots have evolved significantly over time, from early autopilots that merely held an attitude to modern autopilots capable of performing automated landings under the supervision of a pilot.
The first autopilot was invented in 1912 on an airplane. It permitted the aircraft to fly straight and level on a compass course without a pilot’s attention.
In the early 1920s, the Standard Oil tanker J.A. Moffet became the first ship to use an autopilot.
In 1947 a US Air Force C-54 made a transatlantic flight, including takeoff and landing, completely under the control of an autopilot.
Modern autopilots use computer software to control an aircraft. The software reads the aircraft’s current position, and then controls a Flight Control System to guide the aircraft. In such a system, besides classic flight controls, many autopilots incorporate thrust control capabilities that can control throttles to optimize the airspeed, and move fuel to different tanks to balance the aircraft in an optimal attitude in the air. Although autopilots handle new or dangerous situations inflexibly, they generally fly an aircraft with lower fuel consumption than a human pilot.
The software plus sensors allow the autopilot to sense the environment and act in accordance. Internal sensors, from motor trust to fuel, to external sensors like use of GPS, lasers, sonars, or many others, allow any kind of vehicle to have a relationship with itself and the environment. All this cluster of data is organized and made sense by complex software systems that can maintain the relationship relevant by a series of feedback loops through the entire course.
Since human life and the society as whole can depend on such such systems to run flawlessly, they must be extremely reliable. In order for that to happen, airplanes for instance use a series of measures to ensure a high degree of reliability.
Some autopilots use design diversity. In this safety feature, critical software processes will not only run on separate computers and possibly even using different architectures, but each computer will run software created by different engineering teams, often being programmed in different programming languages. It is generally considered unlikely that different engineering teams will make the same mistakes. The flight control computers on the Space Shuttle used this design: there were five computers, four of which redundantly ran identical software, and a fifth backup running software that was developed independently. The software on the fifth system provided only the basic functions needed to fly the Shuttle, further reducing any possible commonality with the software running on the four primary systems.
Examples of automated rail transportation include American urban mass-transit systems such as BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco; MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) in Atlanta, Ga.; and the Metrorail in Washington, D.C. The BART system serves as a useful example; it consists of more than 75 miles (120 kilometres) of track, with about 100 trains operating at peak hours between roughly 30 stations. The trains sometimes attain speeds of 80 miles per hour with intervals between trains of as little as 90 seconds. In each train there is one operator whose role is that of an observer and communicator and who can override the automatic system in case of emergency. The automatic system protects the trains by assuring a safe distance between them and by controlling their speed.
Another function of the system is to control train routings and make adjustments in the operation of each train to keep the entire system operating on schedule.As a train enters the station, it automatically transmits its identification, destination, and length, thus lighting up a display board for passenger information and transmitting information to the control centres. Signals are automatically returned to the train to regulate its time in the station and its running time to the next station. At the beginning of the day, an ideal schedule is determined; as the day progresses, the performance of each train is compared with the schedule, and adjustments are made to each train’s operation as required. The entire system is controlled by two identical computers, so that if one malfunctions, the other assumes complete control. In the event of a complete failure of the computer control system, the system reverts to manual control.
These systems are well put into use today and can act not only to ensure a safe course, but also act in dangerous and “unpredictable” situations.
But to transport masses of people may be much easier to accomplish than transporting individual people to specific locations, because such mass-transit systems usually have fix stop points. These stop points must be very strategically positioned to assure all people can reach them using perhaps only foot or if not other individual transportation systems (cars, bicycles, etc). Again, infrastructure is essential.
Because such mass transit systems have fix points of stopping, and such points can be at huge distances from one another, they can be extremely fast and reliable. A train depends on its own train mechanics and the rail only, that’s mainly it, while individual cars transporting people will have to take into account the traffic and more than that (weather, road, human interaction, etc).
But as self-driving cars and drones prove, autonomous driving in chaotic conditions and for a plethora of purposes is already possible. Transporting people and cargo on land or water, through a non-predictable traffic composed by vehicles driven by people, or delivering cargos to remote locations through drones, or use them to track wildlife or much more than that, is also something that requires a high degree of accuracy.
Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, lidar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Some autonomous vehicles update their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to keep track of their position even when conditions change or when they enter uncharted environments.
There are plenty of examples showing how these systems of autonomous cars are extremely reliable. Numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Vislab from University of Parma, Oxford University and Google.
In 2010, four electric autonomous vans successfully drove 8000 miles from Italy to China. The vehicles were developed in a research project backed by European Union funding, by Vislab of the University of Parma, Italy. In July 2013 Vislab world premiered BRAiVE, a vehicle that moved autonomously on a mixed traffic route open to public traffic. As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. In Europe, cities in Belgium, France and Italy are planning to operate transport systems for driverless cars.
Mass transportation systems, cars, drones, and so on, all seems to be able of autonomous driving with a high degree of accuracy: from air to land, water or underground. Such systems are already in use today. But to dare to think we can make such systems voided of human control, fully AA, we must build them inside smart infrastructures and using smart materials.
Self-Sustainable Systems and Expanding Examples
There are plenty autonomous vehicles that can drive complex tracks and respond to changes in the environment and course, but such systems must rely on well-built and maintenance free infrastructure (vehicles included). Although you may have multiple train systems that can run themselves autonomously, or airplanes, is not only about that, these systems must be built in a way that require almost no maintenance at all if you dare to think these systems can run by themselves.
Hyperloop: Imagine traveling from California to New York (2,413 miles / 3 884 km) in less than 4 hours. That is, traveling across US much faster than you would with a direct airplane flight.
Hyperloop’s speed is around 598 mph (962 km/h) on average, with a top speed of 760 mph (1,220 km/h). It can achieve these speeds because it is “incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on a cushion of air, driven by a combination of linear induction motors and air compressors.” (Wiki)
It can also cost way less in terms of resources and energy spent than any other such transportation system and it is also planned to be powered completely by solar panels that will be placed on top of the track.
SciShow: The science of Hyperloop
“It will never crash, it is immune to weather, it goes 3 to 4 times faster than the bullet train” says Elon Musk in this interview, explaining the technology and the motive behind the transportation system he proposes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ31YMOUok4
Although the concept is only at this stage of concept, officials from Hyperloop published a detailed PDF underlying the science behind the concept and the plans to build it (http://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/blog_images/hyperloop-alpha.pdf). Elon Musk, who has demonstrated many times so far with other technologies he developed/financed, seems to take this project very seriously and even predict it will be a reality in just few years.
Although Hyperloop’s technology needs to be tested in the real world, technologies like Maglev Trains have been around for decades, yet despite decades-long research and development, there are presently only two commercial maglev transport systems in operation, with two others under construction due to the huge monetary costs of building them. They use magnetic levitation instead of wheels thus requiring way less maintenance than traditional trains. This is a test of a Japanese maglev train that reaches 500 kmh (310 mph) – and it is scheduled to be fully functional by 2027. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4jmbjtVjLU
Such maglev trains can be put in vacuum tubes to increase their speed tenfold, that is 5–6 times the speed of sound. Extraordinary speeds. Instead of traveling from LA to New York in less than 4 hours, as Hyperloop speeds suggests, you would in less than half hour. Although, as in the case of Hyperloop, this technology is not currently used in any transportation systems or properly tested as of today, researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University in China are developing (as of 2010) a vactrain to reach speeds of 1,000 km/h (620 mph). They say the technology can be put into operation in 10 years. (source)
Tubular Rails: This train is to save money? It must be insanely expensive to build these massive rings to hold up the train, plus it would be incredibly difficult to make it turn. Somebody was not thinking.
Here is one of the many responses to this idea below a video on it.
This is one of the many responses that say the same thing, too cumbersome and too expensive, more so than what Jacque already had in mind, which is MAGLEV trains.
Straddling Bus: The “straddling bus” would roll on stilts above traffic using small tracks positioned between lanes of traffic while passengers get on and off at elevated bus stops. The result: additional people carrying capacity for urban roads, no disruption to traffic and no need to build completely independent track systems.
This could work
String Transport System: The concept is based on the use of what look like heavy-duty above ground electrical wires, but instead of carrying power, these high-tension wires become the support for carriages. These types of carriages, personal rapid transit (PRT), can be so varied. From “Driverless Pods” that have been programmed so that passengers would never have to wait for more than 12 seconds generating zero local emissions and being 70 percent more energy efficient than cars and 50 percent more than traditional buses, to Human-powered monorail that uses bicycle pods suspended from tracks to create a very efficient option for getting from A to B.
Another very important factor when it comes to mass-transit are the stops to stations, required to pick up passengers, which consume energy and time. What if these transportation systems require no stop ? This is another concept TVP has envisioned, like the maglev train systems in vacuum tubes and other such technologies presentat so far, but there is no real prototype of such systems, although there are other people that have presented this idea as a feasible one. (http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/train-that-never-stops). Basically it is about systems that transfer passengers from one train to another without stopping the trains from their route.
Such transportation systems can be on the ground, underground or elevated on top of the infrastructure, thus not getting in the way of the infrastructure. We are all used to the subway as a means of underground transportation, or even transportation underwater as show in Japan and Uk-France tunnels. Also, elevated railways are in use for many years (source).
So, high speed trains, vacuum tubes that increase the speed and protect the vehicles from the external factors, technologies like maglev that require almost no maintenance, buses that can run on top of existing highways and other rapid transit vehicles that can make the waiting for your next ride to be seconds away. All of these have been proven to be reliable transportation systems.
But what about automating transportation units that do not have a fix track ?
Google Self-Driving Car is the most well known autonomous car in the world. In 2005 a team from Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory won the DARPA Grand Challenge which challenged teams to drive a completely autonomous car on an unknown off-road. You can watch The Great Robot Race Documentary to see the race itself and what other technologies were used besides the one that we are going to present. This team is now behind the Google Car which in August 2012, have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500 000 km) accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time.
Although the technology used for the Google Car is quite expensive to mass-produce, there are plenty of such systems that are far cheaper. Ionut Budisteanu, a 19-year-old student from Romania, may have found a way to make autonomous driving tech more affordable. Budisteanu won a $75,000 scholarship in the International Science and Engineering Fair for creating a system that uses a cheaper, lower-resolution three-dimensional radar system paired with a webcam in place of the pricey high-definition 3D radar Google uses.As a result, Budisteanu was able to cut costs from $75,000 to $4,000. His system uses artificial intelligence software to identify curbs, lane markings and other small objects on the road with the webcam while the radar system locates people, cars and houses. In his tests, the system performed as intended 47 out of 50 times. He believes he can improve accuracy with a slightly higher definition radar system while still keeping costs low. http://www.autoblog.com/2013/05/21/student-wins-intel-science-fair-with-super-cheap-autonomous-car/
Such technologies will get cheaper and cheaper (not only in terms of money but resources consumed to be built) and more and more companies will invest into this technology, thus making it more radially available and perhaps completely transforming the way people used to drive cars. Actually Google is already planning to transform their Google Car into a Robo-Taxi. – http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-considering-turning-selfdriving-cars-into-a-robotaxi-service-8784747.html
Perhaps the transportation on land will be by far the most used and the most reliable. So far we have shown that it can be extremely fast, reliable, very automated and varied. But transportation systems can be achieved on water and air as well as there are many ways to do it autonomously.
On water the autopilot systems may be very similar to those used for self driving cars.On air, UAVs are usually deployed for military and special operation applications, but also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as policing and fire fighting, aerial surveying of crops, acrobatic aerial footage in filmmaking, search and rescue operations, inspecting power lines and pipelines, and counting wildlife, and delivering medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions.
For instance here are some real life examples of “mechanical birds”:
Big aircraft landing and taking off of a carrier fully autonomously.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UduEZaOaonU
Full size helicopter landing, autonomous flying, and taking off. Again, autonomously.- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8yV5D8Cpoc
Also, Amazon wants to release autonomous drone for delivery in 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98BIu9dpwHU
For an extensive list of the use of UAV in the present you can check wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle#Uses
But even these vehicles, from drones to self driving cars, that seems to be able to drive without having a fix track to follow and be very independent, can be more efficient if built inside an infrastructure such as magnetic or solar roads. It will improve their reliability and make them charge their batteries while on route, thus never being forced to stop and charge.
Speaking of batteries, these vehicles must rely on batteries to power them up, right ? Well although electric vehicles are a thing of the present, being able to drive hundreds of kilometers on one charge and even charge their full battery in less than one hour as Tesla model S shows, you have to understand that this is just one way of making cars “go around”. These vehicles can run on air, hydrogen and even water. And although these technologies are more in a prototype stage, they show us that electric cars are not the only option out there.
And if the roads communicate with the vehicles and the vehicles with themselves, the probability of accidents can be 0, thus making the costs of building the vehicles being much less, using fewer resources and energy. After all, you do not build airplanes to resist the impact with another airplane, because that will likely never happen.
So then the focus will be on building these vehicles for their functionality not their subjective design that may uplift someone’s social status as they do now for cars.
And more and more, with the use of nanotechnology, such vehicles can become maintenance free. https://www.google.com/search?q=nanotechnology+in+cars#q=nanotechnology+in+cars&tbm=vid
Such self sustainable systems, be them on air, water or land, will increase the security, safety, roadway capacity, speeds, reliability overall; anyone can use them (you don’t have to know how to drive them); it will perhaps remove the need for parking, or at least reduce it drastically; it will remove the need for owning such a vehicle which makes such vehicles useless when don’t used; it will eliminate the need for police and laws; and more….
And if we think that the difference between transportation and delivery is that one delivers humans and another one packages, then such systems can be used for delivery in the same way they are used for transporting people. Same sensors, same technology, same approach. Actually even today the delivery systems use computers to arrive at the best route.(http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/10/28/ups-says-automated-routing-will-transform-package-delivery/)
The point of all this cluster of transportation technologies is to make sense of them and be efficient. For you and me to not even think about them and just use them. To never wait for the next train, don’t concern about the road itself or driving and so on.
Let me introduce you to a brand new technology called : the smartphone ! 🙂
These devices are now so powerful that you can do pretty much everything with them. And the notion of an “app” is just a thing you install in few seconds as if is not even scratching the smartphone’s hardware and software capabilities.
These apps will prove to be essential in the near future when it comes to transportation. Actually they are already used by many.
Uber is one example of such app. You open the app, it recognize your current location and automatically displays the near by drivers. You can choose which drive to pick you up or just choose the near by one, and that’s it. The drive comes and pick you up. You can track the car’s position live and also the time it will take to arrive at rout location. All of that is so easy to interact with that it is quite hard to not be able to use the app.
You do not have to pay the driver, it automatically charges you from the app itself, thus taking away the paying necessity, which is relevant for TVP as it shows you can get over that step at least technologically.
And there are plenty of similar apps today.
But Uber uses drivers instead of autonomous cars and you may think the human to human interaction is necessary for such things, but look at Berlin which uses a share-cars system. Basically electric cars are parked on many spots in the city, you open an app to detect the cars, and you simply go and pick up the car. That’s it. No middle man or anything. This system proves that people do not act like wild animals and deteriorate the cars as many may project when we imagine such a system of renting cars.
So, combine the both which shows that is so simple to track and order a ride, and even when there is no driver you will have a good relation with the car in the sense that you won’t damage it or anything like that. It is all about education after all, but it shows that in many parts of the world such systems work great.
Since autonomous cars can park themselves and pick you up, is no reason to think them cannot be the ones that are used for such systems.
And there are such apps for tracking flights, train schedules, and pretty much any transportation system. Actually the widely used Google Maps it is so easy to use. You have to only say to google “ I want to get from here to California “ and it will show you the best track for that, including the transportation systems you have to use in order to get there. You can even say to Google Now, the “Siri” of Google and Android, that you want to arrive or leave at certain hour and it will create the travel according to that.
Let’s see what we have shown so far:
– Autopilots are so sophisticated they can run entire transportation systems even in unpredictable conditions.
– From air to land, water to underground, underwater or on top of cities, transportation systems are extremely varied and complex.
– These vehicles and their infrastructure can be completely reliable, self-sustainable and efficient from every perspective.
– The idea of a completely autonomous transportation and delivery systems is no longer a SF idea, is something that we are experiencing more and more.
– Apps and smartphones make the interaction between all this complex set of systems and you, like a “walk in the park” 🙂
Now imagine you want to go anywhere in the world (supposedly it is a habitable place). You open your travel app and just say: I want to go there. The app makes the route for you and ask you when you want to arrive or depart. You say the time and a car will come and pick you up. You then enjoy the ride and the landscape, and arrive at the exact same time as the software predicted.
You may be forced to change to other transportation system on your route. But that won’t be as forceful at all, just a : getting out of the car and walk few meters to get into the other transportation system (train, airplane).
The transportation system should become so efficient that you won’t even think about it. It will just work.
TVP transportation systems are beautifully married with the infrastructure, thus making them even more efficient and reliable. From maglev technology to autonomous vehicles, from trains that never stop on their route to those that achieve fantastic speeds in vacuum tubes, I do not see anything that TVP is proposing to not be achievable with today’s technology.
Now look again at the TVP transportation systems and see if you find it impossible to achieve – http://joom.ag/4GgX/p6