The mobility of the future is here today
The future of mobility begins today, in a few years we will not need the wheel and maybe we will not even drive.
If you are between 30 and 40 years old, you surely remember seeing Back to the Future II as a child in the cinema or on television. You will also remember the future that both this and many other science fiction films of the time sold us: fluzo condensers, flying cars that were practically personal aircraft … and you will also be aware that that distant October 21, 2015 to which Marty was travelling and Doc has already passed … and that nothing they predicted has been fulfilled. But, what if we told you that we’re just late in programming? Will you see (and who knows whether you will drive) flying cars in your lifetime?
We may talk about the medium or long term, but the truth is that today we are immersed in the germ of change, the beginning of a new era of mobility that, sooner than we expect, will be totally different from the current one. 100% autonomous vehicles were just a dream a few years ago, but we have already seen them on our streets and the technology necessary to make them standard is in full development following a clearly defined road map.
It won’t be long before you are not neede
Take a look at any car ad you see: it is rare that it does not highlight some kind of autonomous technology by which it can take control in a given situation as one of its most important characteristics. All manufacturers are focused on this, Tesla at the forefront with the unmistakable halo of a pioneer, but also Nissan with its ProPilot, Ford with LIDAR technology …
We are, as we might say, at the dawn of autonomous driving, but vehicles only have to go through five levels to allow you to be doing other things on the trip:
Level 1: only includes the use of driving assistants (lane change, automatic braking …).
Level 2: the car is capable of driving by itself in controlled scenarios (a motorway, for example).
Level 3: it can already monitor the environment and respond to unforeseen events.
Level 4: the driver begins to be dispensable, though may have to intervene in certain emergency situations.
Level 5: that’s it, no steering wheel or pedals. Talk to the car, tell it where you want to go and enjoy the trip.
Logically, to get there vehicles need support, on the one hand between them and, on the other, from the environment in which they move, which in technical terms is the vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication, better known as V2V and V2I. The 5G networks, which send and receive information at intervals of less than 10 milliseconds, already make it possible to update data practically instantaneously, which will allow cars to know when to start at a traffic light, when an accident has occurred to take an alternative route, when a vehicle is going to brake to avoid a crash … the fluidity will be total and the traffic jams a thing of the past.
Cars with wings on the way
Do you remember the flying cars? So go back to them, because there are currently a huge number of companies working along this line, to such an extent that there are already prototypes even making test flights. Of course, we must change the approach of the eighties films, since the formats under consideration move a lot away from the cliché of “car with propellers”.Aeromobil 3.0, Vahana, Lilium-Jet are companies immersed in the process and each one has a personal view of how they should be: from a hybrid with wheels and wings to extendable wing models, going through a current that adapts drone technology to a larger size.
It is precisely the last of these that uses the Volocopter, which has been acquired by the Daimler Group (to which Mercedes and Smart belong, among others). Its objective is very well defined and it has a shorter term than what could be expected: by 2022 it wants to turn it into a fleet that will act as autonomous taxis in certain cities.
From Madrid to Barcelona in 30 minutes
And although the human being has always looked up to the sky, maybe to see our future we have to look down to the ground or, specifically, even below. Here the revolution has its own name: Hyperloop.
A group of students from the Polytechnic University of Valencia founded the company Zeleros, in 2016, with which it won the Santander YUZZ Valencia 2017, and which is involved in this project that seeks to revolutionise overland transport. The system is based on capsules travelling through tunnels at speeds of between 300 and 1,000 kilometres per hour, levitating on magnets and so minimising friction, and using a turbine located in the front that sucks in the air it finds and pushing it out of the back and thus achieving momentum.
David Pistoni, part of the team, notes that expectations are high: “It is a means of transport that combines the accessibility of the train with the speed of the plane and all this with clean energy and very low energy consumption. We could travel from Madrid to Barcelona in about 30 minutes and without long queues or trips to the airport.” And he concludes that, as a final goal, “We could imagine Hyperloop as an extensive metro network where, instead of connecting different parts of the city, we connect multiple cities and countries in a matter of minutes”.
BREAKDOWN: Never get lost in interiors
How often have you wandered through a shopping centre until you found the store you were looking for? How many walks have you taken in an underground parking lot in search of your car? It is surprising that at this stage with the advanced positioning technology outdoors (GPS is your best friend every time you go to an unknown place, and you know it), it is not like that when we are indoors. The main problem is that the signal is lost, and the margin of error of between 8 and 10 metres is too large for a closed space.
The solution has been found by the Galician company Situm, founded by Adrián Canedo, winner of the Santander Yuzz Jóvenes con Ideas 2014 edition. Thinking about how to guide any individual within buildings, they created a new system that combines the Wi-Fi signal, small beacons and magnetic fields to offer much more precise positioning (its margin of error is one metre). Gregory Botanes, the Managing Director of the company, points out that its use “improves the quality of life of the individual and saves him time” and that his goal is “to provide anyone with cost-free high-precision indoor positioning”.