The Future of Global Transport?

Imagine a world without traffic congestion, where cars could drive themselves and where humans, equipped with "clever clothes," could take flight at a moment's notice. A new book on the future of transport by two New Zealand professors, Chris Kissling and John Tiffin, envisions just such a world — where nanotechnology, satellite communications and computer chips come together to create a world devoid of fossil fuel dependency, congestion and the threat of global warming. At the same time, it raises concerns about a "Big Brother" surveillance society and a potential "obesity time bomb" sparked by various technologies assuming all our daily tasks.

Transport Communications reveals a future society growing ever more dependent on global positioning systems, small computers and nanotechnology — which could fulfill a range of functions, including the tracking of crowds through public transport hubs or the remote guidance of cars, planes and ships. "[We're] trying to help people look into the future: what changes are coming, because more of the same, we think, is limited," said Kissling, who expects most of these changes to occur within the next half-century. The advent of virtual reality could fundamentally change human contact, they explain, by eliminating the need for people to travel. They do not predict, however, a complete end to human contact: "Artificial intelligence is unlikely to acquire the social nuances needed at the captain's table or an air steward's ability to deal with the unusual." That, and many people do enjoy traveling.

As with all such books, Kissling and Tiffin have been accused of stealing others' ideas and of elaborating nonsensical and unfeasible scenarios (some certainly sound a little kooky). The authors acknowledged that much of their book is pure and simple conjecture but defended their arguments by pointing out that many of their ideas are already taking root — autopilots on planes and ships and cars telling drivers to change the oil or slow down.

While several elements of their vision sound promising — better safety features enabled by nanotechnology and satellite communications and "clever clothes" to help prevent or heal injuries after accidents — many seem downright unfeasible (passengers being given sleeping pills and stacked horizontally on beds in ships and planes) or dangerous ("Big Brother-ish" surveillance devices and chips implanted in humans).

Via ::Guardian Unlimited Environment: The end of traffic jams? (news website)

See also: ::Facing Smog and Sluggish Traffic, Beijing Upgrades Its Public Bus System, ::Urban Air Hazard: Traffic Is Major Cause of Particulate Emissions
Image courtesy of mairabc via flickr

Tags: Nanotechnology | New Zealand | Traffic