Road transport as we know it today has only been around for the last 100 years, ever since the advent of the mass production vehicles that have become almost a necessity for our everyday lives. It is strange to think that we have come so far in terms of transportation in the last 100 years. After all, rail transport has been around for over a thousand years (some of the earliest railroads were built by Chinese Emperors during the early Ming Dynasty), and the model used by rail transport companies remains relatively unchanged (though it has become increasingly more sophisticated and high-tech). Could the future of bus transit have the same fate as that? Will it remain much like it is now, and only get more technologically sophisticated?
In 2013, South African born Canadian entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled his plans to develop what he dubbed the ‘Hyperloop’, a transit system he plan sot install in California that will travel at speeds of up to 1200km/h using its streamlined design and air pressure to keep the transporter in a semi-levitated state (much like an air-hockey table). While this technology is still a good few years away from being put into development (and even more time before it will be perfected and implemented worldwide), there is definitely a growing trend in innovation in the mass transportation industry. In 2010, a California based company developed the first ever solar powered bus which is now part of a working fleet of vehicles that provide luxury private transportation in California.
For the last 5 years, Japanese companies have been experimenting with train-bus hybrid vehicles that have both steel wheels for use on rails and rubber tyres suitable for the road. This project aims to significantly reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the amount of time the bus needs to use fossil fuels to run by spending a significant amount of time on the electrically powered rail system.
For now, these advancements are still relatively young and will take a lot of time to be developed into fully functional business models, but they already indicate the way of the future of bus travel (and mass transportation in general). Perhaps in the next 100 years we will have completely self-sufficient high-speed transporters that don’t even need wheels to move around (such as the model proposed by Elon Musk), or perhaps the line between types of transport will be blurred, with the creation of bus-train hybrids, and even possibly train-boat hybrids able to traverse oceans. One thing is almost certain, however, and that is the fact that things are already starting to look a lot different to what they did just a decade ago.