3 Modes of Transportation Set to Change the World

If you’ve been following the transportation industry lately, you’ve noticed our future is edging closer and closer to science-fiction.  And it’s happening rapidly. Just a few years back self-driving cars sounded like a pipe dream–now they’re driving around several major cities. A decade ago, electric cars seemed impractical due to short range charges. Today, batteries last much longer, charging stations are way more prevalent, and some countries are even developing solar powered roads to charge electric cars as they drive. With these changes (along with everything else in this technology-driven age) we know better than to say “never” to even the seemingly far-fetched ideas. It’s a healthy perspective when wading through the latest mobility news.

Here are 3 modes of transportation set to change the world:

Hyperloop

Originally the idea of Twitter’s favorite entrepreneur, Elon Musk, the Hyperloop concept is a sealed capsule propelled through a vacuum tube by way of magnetic levitation. This low pressure chamber eliminates drag, allowing the capsule to travel at extremely high speeds. Since Musk’s initial proposal of the idea back in 2013, several other companies have taken on development of the hyperloop, including Virgin Hyperloop One whose capsule currently clocks in at speeds near 400 mph. This would cut a four-day truck haul down to 16 hoursThe hyperloop would also be open to regular commuters as well.  It’ll be years before a hyperloops are prevalent, but the CEO of HTT says their system will be open by 2020.

Urban transport pods

You’ve heard of self-driving cars, but what about pods? Rather than purchasing their own self-driving cars, commuters could one day hop into an autonomous shuttle, type in their destination, and kick back until they arrive. London has been trialing driverless pods for over a year with the goal of understanding how they would fit into the city’s existing travel infrastructure. They’ve ferried over 5,000 passengers and according to a survey of 1,000 passengers, 43% said they felt confident about the technology. Similar transport pods are being tested in Dubai, Germany, and France. It’s still unclear when pods would be running regularly through cities, but given the rapid advancement of the tech and public approval, we could see them in the 2020’s.

Flying Cars

We’ve all been hearing about driverless cars since before the Jetsons. But it wasn’t until recently that we began seeing the first signs that this method of transportation will not only be possible, but likely quite prevalent. Large, luxury automakers like Rolls-Royce and Aston-Martin have revealed their concepts for personal-use flying cars, both of which can hit speeds of 200+ mph. Uber and NASA have also teamed up to develop flying taxis. Their ride-sharing network could go public as early as 2020.    

Fire Alarm

Summer is fire season west of the Mississippi, and as flames sweep up and down hills and mountain-sides, roads open and close. Through it all, TrafficCast International’s team of traffic data editors deliver up-to-the-minute information about roads traveled by millions across the affected areas. 

Nature is beautiful and brutal and endlessly fascinating. In Oregon, at the Silver Falls State Park about 20 miles southeast of Salem, firefighters have been able to encircle and thus control the spread of the 27 acres of the Silver Creek Fire. Night crews used infra-red cameras to help identify hot spots. The heavily forested area is located away from major roads, although state highway 38, which was closed for days, is reopened. While some trails remained closed, waterfall areas are open to visitors during park hours. This fire was thought to have been started by lightning; there have been no injuries or fatalities.

Also in Oregon, the Substation Fire flared up around The Dalles, roaring through 109 miles and closing state highway 206 and US 97.  Roads were reopened and the fire was 82% contained by July 22. Evacuations have been lowered to level one.

Some fires limit visibility or even close interstate highways. In Colorado, I-70 near mountain passes closed periodically due fires that flared up and then subsided. During the past two weeks, drivers on CO-82 near Basalt, have been warned of poor visibility, but the highway has remained opened. Downstate, by Telluride, US-550 is opened to alternating lanes of traffic after having been closed in June. Now the problem is landslides, due at least in part to loss of vegetation from wildfires.  

The Klamathon Fire, in northern California and southern Oregon, which had closed Interstate 5 for a time, is 96% contained.

In Southern California, The Valley Fire which started on July 6th is 29% contained, and while more than 100 fire personnel plus 5 engines, 3 helicopters and 3 water tenders remain assigned to battle and contain the fire, no homes or structures have been damaged. Eleven state and local agencies contribute fire control support, including CALFIRE, San Bernardino Animal Control  and the American Red Cross.

The Grant Fire which threatened the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco was started by two teenagers with fireworks. The teens remorsefully turned themselves in to the Manteca Police Department; one is being charged with negligence. The fire lasted less than 24 hours, but shut down I-580 through the Altamont Pass in both directions for several hours while it blazed.

These incidences provide only a snapshot of what firefighters and law enforcement officers in Western states are facing in summer, 2018 as they coordinate evacuations and road closures. There are many days of summer and hot weather ahead. Through it all, TrafficCast’s traffic operations department provides up to the minute records on road and highway closings and openings. These records help the public know if and when they can use public roads and return to their homes as fires rage and subside.

by Susan McKinney

Da Mayor is in the house!

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki visited The Mill in Wilmington, which houses TrafficCast’s Eastern offices, and posted this:

“Had the pleasure to meet with Al McGowan & Sil Scaglione of TrafficCast International yesterday at their offices at The Mill Space here in #WilmDE. Their amazing systems and staff are the tech and power behind the GPS apps we love and utilize every day. So proud to have them here #inWilm and look forward to what’s to come next from these amazing folks!
Thanks for the welcome, Mayor Purzycki!

3 Car Tech Features to Look for Your Next Day at the Dealership

Many of the conversations in transportation today revolve around driverless cars, and for good reason–autonomous tech stands to completely transform the way travel and how we live. But it’s going to be at least a few years before they’re available to consumers. That’s not to say vehicles aren’t already undergoing some radical changes though. There are some exceptionally cool and helpful technology features available in new cars today. True, some may only be available in higher-end vehicles currently, but it likely won’t be long until they transition to vehicles for the masses.

Below are a few of our favorites we think you should keep an eye out for the next time you find yourself on the car lot:

Night-Vision

People are afraid of things that go bump in the night–especially when it involves their pexels-photo-1033307car. If you’ve ever experienced that “I hope something doesn’t jump out in front of me right now” kind of anxiety, you’ll be happy to hear about night-vision for vehicles. Audi’s night vision assistant highlights pedestrians and animals using thermal imaging. BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac also have their own form of night vision available in some models.

Blind Spot Alert

Not checking your blind spot is dangerous. Checking your blind spot going 70 miles per hour on the highway doesn’t feel all that much safe either, but it’s a necessary evil. Fortunately new blind spot detection features are making for safer merging. Mercedes-Benz has a new blind spot assist will audibly warn the driver if they try to merge with someone in their blind spot and even apply the brakes if needed.

WiFi Connectivity

Many automakers are adding WiFi connectivity to new models, turning cars into rolling hotspots. This is great for passengers who want to play music, watch videos, or just browse the internet without draining their battery. Or if you find yourself in a new town or city and looking for something to do, you can park your car and investigate rather than looking for WiFi.

This is a small sample of some of the coolest technology that’s come to vehicles recently. To stay on top of all the newest technology and other transportation news, follow us on Twitter.

Jake Ritzheimer, TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations

Will We Ride Solar Roads into the Future?

Solar energy started off fringe. Once reserved to the roofs of affluent homes or campuses of large companies, solar panels have rocketed in popularity over the past decade thanks to falling manufacturing costs. Now some predict we could one day see these alternative sources of energy lining our streets. It’s a bold prediction, albeit attractive.

So we have to wonder: What benefits could we expect from solar-powered roads and what’s holding them back?

Benefits (Sunny side of the street)

Reduced Land Use

With solar panels lining roads, we would no longer need huge swaths of land to sustain energy production operations. More green energy = more green spaces.

Efficient Energy Distribution

Since roads wind through all parts of a city, there’d be little distance to travel from energy source to energy user. This means virtually no power lost in travel, unlike when energy is produced far off-site. 

Increased Driver Safety

Any electrical energy produced could be used to heat roads during winter, eliminating ice and snow. Cities could also install light diodes directly in the road that could alert drivers to accidents or construction and direct them to a quicker, safer route.

The upsides of solar-powered roads are clear, so what’s standing in their way?

Challenges

Asphalt Under Pressure

The asphalt used in a majority of US roads is meant to compress slightly to accommodate heavy trucks and cars. While this compression is handy for the longevity of roadways now, it would crack any solar panels installed in the future. It’s likely we’d need to switch to concrete roads before we added solar panels, which would be costly and time-consuming.

Cost of Maintenance

It currently costs about $11 per square foot to repair an asphalt road every 10 years or so. The cost of repairing/replacing solar panels would cost about four times as much. However, solar roads would likely require less frequent replacement and the added energy production could offset many of the installation costs. Still, for now the initial price tag on this type of project has many developers and officials at bay.

It may be some time before we see solar roadways widespread throughout the US, but China has already begun embedding solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers into roads. Perhaps if they find success, we can use them as a model for own endeavors.

Incredible things happen everyday in the world of transportation. Follow us on Twitter for the latest and greatest.  

– Jake Ritzheimer  

TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations