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.
Blade Runner came out in 1982 and made some dazzling predictions for what the world of 2019 would look like. Unless your last name is Kurzweil, it's tough to forecast more than thirty years of technological advancement. Do you have a sense what the city of 2030 will look like? Consumer expectations don't always align with reality, but they can serve as important markers of market preparedness for new technologies. A glimpse into the future of money: Spain's banking revolution shows what's next for your cash In Spain, where smartphone use is the norm and peer-to-peer lending is taking off, banks' shift from payment processors to financial services advisors is particularly noticeable.
As I approached San Francisco International Airport, my expectations for BMW's new concept car were as big as the looming Boeing 777F Lufthansa cargo jet waiting for me. I had surrendered my cellphone and everything in my purse but my drivers license to see BMW's iNext vehicle. Its tour started in Munich a few days earlier; it came to the Bay Area after a stop at New York's JFK airport, and was scheduled to continue on to Beijing. SEE ALSO: BMW makes sure we can't escape voice assistants while driving After passing a final security check, I climbed up the rickety staircase with fellow media members and entered the cavernous aircraft. We had been told very little about what we were going to see, except it was not only the "car of the future" but the "idea of the future."
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.