French inventor Frank Zapata grabbed headlines around the world this summer when he flew his hoverboard across the English channel from Pas de Calais, France, to the famous white cliffs of Dover. But Bay Area commuters may soon do Zapata one better by skimming above San Francisco Bay on autonomous, single-passenger drones being developed by a Peninsula start-up company with ties to Google. The automated drones are electrically powered, capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and would fly 10 feet above the water at 20 mph along a pre-determined flight path not subject to passenger controls. The drones' rotors are able to shift from vertical to horizontal alignment for efficient forward movement after takeoff. The company behind all this, three-year-old Kitty Hawk Corp., has personal financial backing from Google founder Larry Page, now CEO of Google's parent, Alphabet, who has long been interested in autonomous forms of transportation.
The ambitious Hyper Chariot concept uses roller coaster-type technology to catapult car-sized capsules through airless concrete tubes at five times the speed of sound - and more than five times faster than Elon Musk's Hyperloop. The hypersonic public transport system, presided over by Hollywood actor Matthew Modin, will be fully operational by 2040 with test centres opening next year, the founders claim. The hypersonic public transport system (pictured) which looks straight out of a sci-fi movie could be fully operational by 2040 and will connect'cities and even countries in a way never before possible' the company claims The founders claim the Hyper Chariot uses roller coaster-type technology to catapult car-sized capsules through airless concrete tubes at five times the speed of sound. The apparent public transport of the future will accelerate from 0 to 1,000mph (1,600 km/h) in just 60 seconds and will reach an astonishing top speed of 4,000mph (6,400 km/h). A spokesman for Hyper Chariot said tickets for the eight minute journey would be'highly competitive', with fares for London to Edinburgh costing around £100 ($127).
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has announced a council aimed at supporting transportation projects including hyperloops and self-driving cars. The Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council (NETT) hopes to make sure the Department of Transportation's complex structure of various administrations doesn't impede companies from deploying such tech. "New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I've signed an order creating a new internal Department council to better coordinate the review of innovation that have multi-modal applications," Chao said in a statement. The Department of Transportation has 11 administrations (including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Transit Administration), each with their own processes and regulations. The council, chaired by Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, will give companies a central access point to talk about their ideas and proposals, and NETT could help streamline permit, approval and funding processes.
With its Shinkansen'bullet trains' and melodious subway system, Tokyo already has some of the world's greatest public transport infrastructure. But the heavily populated city will be pushed to its limits come 2020, when the world descends on the Japanese capital as it plays host to the Olympic games. One company looking to capitalise on the influx of tourists is robotics firm ZMP Inc. According to Reuters, it's planing to team up with Tokyo's Hinomaru Kotso cab firm to update its fleet of 600 cars with driverless technology. ZMP has already had driverless cars on Tokyo's streets, but each had a driver ready to wrestle control should the AI go wayward.
Try Hyperloop, rocket travel, and robotic avatars. Hyperloop is currently working towards 670 mph (1080 kph) passenger pods, capable of zipping us from Los Angeles to downtown Las Vegas in under 30 minutes. Rocket Travel (think SpaceX's Starship) promises to deliver you almost anywhere on the planet in under an hour. Think New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes. As 5G connectivity, hyper-realistic virtual reality, and next-gen robotics continue their exponential progress, the emergence of "robotic avatars" will all but nullify the concept of distance, replacing human travel with immediate remote telepresence.