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The Future of Commuting

January 23, 2014 in Transport by bbadmin

We all know that there is a real need to reduce energy usage and emissions. Even if you are a climate change sceptic, you cannot escape the huge rise in energy prices over the last decade. Pretty much everybody agrees that insulating their home is a good idea, but most people are reluctant to trade in their cars for more eco-friendly alternatives.

What’s out there now?

Currently there are just a few alternatives available to commuters wanting to ditch their motor vehicles:

Cycling

If you only travel short distances then sure cycling can seem like a great idea. You get some exercise and you save a lot of money. However this is simply not an option for a lot of people. If you need to travel a long way, perhaps you need to carry equipment or you just aren’t fit enough to make the journey. Not everybody is lucky enough to be able to get a shower at work – there are lots of reasons why cycling may not be a viable alternative, it will work for a few people, but it is never going to replace the car.

Alternative fuels

Car manufacturers have invested a lot of money in developing alternatives to petrol/diesel engines. So far only one option has made it to the mainstream – electric cars. The government has done its part to encourage us to switch to electric with various grants and incentives to buy. But the buying public has yet to be convinced. High prices, short ranges long charging times and lack of charging points are just a few of the barriers to overcome. Then there are also questions about their eco credentials. They still run on electricity which is mostly produced from fossil fuels, then there are issues with the batteries and questions over the longevity.

Public transport

Public transport should be the perfect solution. Vehicles still use the same fuels, but by transporting people in bulk there are huge energy savings. For now though in the UK public transport just isn’t reliable enough.  Journeys can also take a lot longer than driving. For example my 30-40minute commute to work by car takes almost twice as long on the bus. For public transport to displace the motor vehicle it is going to take a huge investment and intense PR campaign.

Some eco-friendly concepts for the future

SKHy Bus

lahore city bus

Hydrogen has long been mooted as the fuel of the future, but as yet nobody has been able to create an economically viable engine. When they do we could be seeing these funky looking vehicles replacing double deckers in our major towns and cities. The Solar and Kinetic energy to produce Hydrogen (or SKHY) bus is the brainchild of Portuguese designer Alain Monteiro. It is designed to recycle waste water and absorb CO2. Its only emission – oxygen.

Takht Lahori Bus

lahore city bus

This futuristic bus was developed by Ali Murtaza for the the “My City” scholarship competition of Instituto Europeo di Design’s School of Transportation Design. The zero emission vehicle is powered by electric motors built into the wheels. The bus looks great, but it comes with all the problems associated with current electric vehicles so don’t expect to see one trundling through your town any time soon.

3D Express Coach

straddle bus

Brought to us from China, the 3D Express Coach attempts to tackle two problems at once – congestion and the environment. The bus is designed to run on solar power. It runs on tracks in the same way as trains. Between the tracks is a 2 metre high space to allow other vehicles to pass through, while passengers are carried on the upper deck. Of the concepts here this is the closest to production.

The city driver’s future

folding car

The future of commuting may not all be about public transport. There are designers out there who still believe in personal transport. The tiny Hiriko folding car has been designed to contend with the challenges faced by drivers in modern cities – congestion and lack of parking. In its normal driving position it can rival most micro cars, but folded it measures just 1.5 metres, meaning you can squeeze into the tightest of spaces. The car is 100% electric so emissions are as small as the car itself. The Hiriko folding car should be available next year with prices around £10,000 it will give Smart car buyers some food for thought.

The Bear Bottom

Overcoming transport problems has inspired many designers to find a solution. Few make it into production and so far nothing has been widely rolled out, but the future commute looks very exciting.

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Instant Internet Shopping

December 3, 2013 in Transport by bbadmin

amazon drone mail

The internet has revolutionised the way we shop. But since its inception there has been very little innovation in internet shopping. In fact aside from a more modern interface little has changed from the old days of mail order shopping. Until now that is.

Amazon.com has begun testing a robotic drone that will deliver your package from their warehouse in around 30 minutes. When you hit the buy button the automated delivery process will be set in motion. The package will be prepared in their fulfilment centres and transported to your door by a small unmanned aircraft, known as an Octocopter.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo believes the service could be in operation in less than 5 years, but before then there are some major hurdles to overcome, including complex legislation, developing the technology, security and safety. So is this just a gimmick to get some publicity, or could drone deliveries be the future of internet shopping?

Could Drone Deliveries Work?

In the US the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently limits the use of drones to public entities and hobbyists. So currently these devices cannot be used commercially. However there are plans to amend the legislation, so it may be possible this hurdle will be removed within the five year timeframe.

Developing Drone Technology

Drone aircraft are most famous… or perhaps infamous, for their military uses. The Amazon Octocopters will be very different from this, but it does demonstrate the technology can be used successfully. Robotic drones are already used within warehouses to take the goods from storage to packing stations. This is really just an advancement of that technology. There is no reason why Amazon can’t develop the technology within the next few years.

Security

One of the first comments people make about these drones is “what’s to stop people shooting them down?” Well shooting them down is not going to be that easy. Firstly in a busy area people are going to notice someone firing into the air. Then they’d have to get to where the package lands before anybody else. This is not going to be a huge problem, but there will be a risk and it’s something Amazon will need to take into consideration during development.
The other concern is what happens if you’re out of the house when the drone arrives? Well given the delivery time of 30 minutes, it’s unlikely you’re going to go out when you order something, but it’s possible that there could be an emergency and you miss the delivery. An easy solution would be for the parcel to be returned to the factory, but it could also be left in a designated area as an alternative.

Safety

They will need to pass FAA tests to prove they are air worthy, but this should be a mere formality. The problem lies in making the devices more intelligent. At the moment the Octocopters use GPS to guide themselves from the fulfilment centre to the delivery address. However to navigate around busy towns and cities they will need to be able to solve problems to avoid collisions. The technology to do this is already out there. Eventually this level of artificial intelligence will need to be built into Amazon’s octocopters, enabling them to deliver safely deliver their payloads with virtually no human interaction.

The Bear Bottom

As the roads become ever more congested, Amazon could be on to a winner with their airborne delivery system. There will also be environmental benefits, as the lightweight machines have the potential to use less energy, and could be powered by renewable energy. Taking them off the roads also means the delivery can take the most direct route, saving time and energy. There are some very difficult problems to overcome, but I would not be surprised to see one of these little robots hovering by in the very near future.