More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: April 17, 2014

More about the next bold step in transportation

Need for speed? No problem!

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PRTs) offer a new dimension in transportation. They operate above the fray, independent of the frenetic energy of today’s highways, airports, train and bus depots.

Unbeknownst to most, early adoption of these technologies is already taking place. As niche markets get established, expansion will follow as the advantages of personal rapid transit systems become widely recognized.

One of the major advantages is that they’re built around automated systems, eliminating the human variable as well as the chaos factor that stems from it. Unlike planes, buses, and trains, they don’t require a schedule. This is on-demand mobility that, once completed, will take anyone, anywhere, anytime day or night.

As cities expand, so does the demand for personal mobility. PRTs are scalable by increasing line density, expandable by adding more lines, and connectable to existing systems.

PRTs will also force our current transportation infrastructure to evolve. As an example, driverless cars will offer many of the advantages of local PRT networks, but it will take several decades before human operated cars can be eliminated from roadways. A well-functioning PRT system can make that happen quicker.

This is similar to what happened in the early 20th century when Ford’s Model T transformed cars from being a luxury item to a ubiquitous staple of American life in less than 30 years.

During the first five years of PRT implementation, cities will become less dependent on the dirty and inefficient internal combustion engines to move city residents, tourists, cargo, and freight. Large cities will likely be the first to integrate PRTs and expand their networks into suburbia, allowing easy and fast access for commuters as well as city dwellers.

Unlike building new highways, where buying land, rights of way, and neighborhood buy-ins, metro PRTs only require poles that can be erected along existing roadways. They also operated without the noise and pollution of today’s roadways.

The first city-to-city connections will be linked via an ET3 or Hyperloop system, transporting cargo and passengers at 375 mph within a 100-mile radius.

Reinventing the Freight, Cargo, and Shipping Industries

Much of the freight shipped today comes in standardized containers. This has worked well when it comes to shipping copious amounts of cargo on trucks and trains across continents or on ship transporting goods across the Pacific and Atlantic. But it’s also slow, labor intensive, and mind-numbingly complex.

Much of this will begin to change with PRTs as well.

A city-to-city route within a 200-600 mile range with an ET3 or Hyperloop system will be able to ship things like food, merchandise, or even a couch at a fraction of the cost of truck or rail. Individual capsules can be modified to handle liquids as well, opening the door to shipping things like milk, oil, fertilizer and more.

Final Thoughts

Virtually everything on earth is synced to our ticking metronome of time, with those who can accomplish the most in a single 24-hour day gaining a significant advantage. Much of what we accomplish is tied to speed.

Within 10 years, your dreaded 7:00 am commute that takes two hours and half a tank of gas could be shortened to 20 minutes and virtually no gas.

As networks expand, the definition of a metro area will expand as people begin to routinely commute 500 – 1,000 miles each way for their jobs. A city like Milwaukee may be considered a suburb of Chicago as travel time is reduced. The entire Boston to Washington corridor could be massively linked into one large metro area.

High-priced real estate will likely lose its ability to command their current exorbitant prices, as far less expensive communities suddenly become only minutes away.

Airlines will need to adapt to this new form of competition. As new routes get linked to the PRTs, traffic will begin to drop and schedules will have to be adjusted accordingly. Over time, airlines will become relegated to luxury class travel serving a far different clientele.

By 2035, PRTs will be crisscrossing most of the modernized world. Roadway bottlenecks will no longer be an issue and traffic will flow easily between North and South America, between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and even between North America and Asia by way of the Bering Strait.

Once ET3 is connected between the U.S. and China, the tube transportation system will have ultra high-speed vehicles operating at 4,000 mph, making the trip between Washington and Beijing in only two hours. This will indeed be the equivalent of space travel on earth.

This entire journey begins, however, with a few critical decisions that need to be made today.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Too bad this didn't come along before all the money spent on Light Rail in the Denver area. By Diane Kraft on 2014 04 17
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video