(Thanks to talented Artists Alexey Zakharov for allowing us to use this picture for this post on the future of transportation discussion – visit more of his work here – He inspired himself from the serie Futurama)
Here is take one on a topic that has been fascinating me recently that I’d like to discuss it with anyone who would like to join in this post. Please complete my thinking by commenting.
My belief is that the transportation industry is going to be disrupted more than ever before in the coming years, creating massive shifts in the industry.
We are all seeing new disruptive transportation technologies emerging:
Electric / driverless cars:
The trend began with hybrid cars (and that’s already a thing of the past). Then Tesla took it successfully to the next level by producing the first electric car that could finally compete with ordinary fuel & luxury cars. Elon Musk’s bet is paying off and Tesla has promised an affordable Tesla car for the middle classes by as early as 2017. Major automobile brands have been taking this very seriously and are now also releasing their own electric cars (and driverless cars) following the Tesla path and Google (for driverless cars). The question is what should a consumer do today?
Is it still worth buying a fuel car for the time being or should one wait for electric cars to be available in few months / couple of years. How are we going to manage the transition without having millions of car owners see the value of their fuel cars drop? Is this a reasonable question?
Electric cars are already being tested in the city of Mountain View in California.
For those who may not know, the Hyperloop is a project that was initiated (once again) by Elon Musk following a trip he took from LA to San Francisco and during which he got stuck in traffic for hours. He said to himself: “There must be a better way…” He announced the launch of the project and called upon engineers and entrepreneurs around the world to work on it. He released 50+ pages documents describing the idea. In a nutshell, the system would allow objects or people to be transported in a pressurized tube at a very high max speed of 760 mph (subsonic speed)! A trip from New York to Washington or LA to San Francisco could take only minutes instead of hours!
Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of the Hyperloop Transportation Technology (HTT), one of the most advanced projects, was able to agree with the Slovakian government to start working on plans to implement the new mode of transportation. What is even more fascinating about this particular project is that it has been initiated completely via online crowdsourcing. Hundreds of engineers from around the globe are working on it in exchange for potential equity. In June 2016, a competition to test the prototypes will take place in Silicon Valley. A 5-mile track has been put at the disposal of the various teams to enable them to test their machines. I will try to be there as there are not many such moments in life. If you have seen the videos of the Wright Brothers attempting to fly their first plane, this competition could go down in history like the brothers’ first flight in December 1903, don’t you think?
Even if the Hyperloop does not initially work for people, it can be a great way to transport objects / products and replace traditional modes of transportation, e.g. cargo planes, slow trains and trucks… And then once proven safe you could see this new technology rapidly being used for the transportation of people and changing the way we live. You could potentially live in New York and work in Washington….and do the commute everyday…
The Space X project, led by Elon Musk, has been working at improving space travel and has so far been able to send a shuttle into space and have it land back on earth. This is a groundbreaking event since it helps decrease the costs of space travel significantly. Regular shuttles would be either be left in space or crash back on earth…). Elon is studying ways to travel to Mars…Knowing how successful he has been on other major enterprises let’s stay tuned….
Drones have so far been more like gadgets or toys but many people are already envisaging being able to use drones to transport objects or products over short distances. It’s not too crazy is it to think that you could have your Amazon order transported via the Hyperloop and then delivered to your home via a drone? Or even your Chinese food or Pizza? There are even ambulance drones which can transport a heart attack victim or a defibrillator in a matter of minutes, quicker than an ordinary ambulance significantly increasing the chances of survival…
What are causing these new technologies to see the light?
The acceleration of innovation in the transportation industry is due to many factors I think….again please comment or correct me If I am wrong…
- Global warming and the related pressures of finding cleaner energies than fossil fuel are probably inspiring people to find new ideas such as technological (r)evolutions in terms of clean energies (longer lasting, high power batteries), or artificial intelligence for driverless cars, solar power for long-distance drones, etc.).
- The digitalization of the world, specifically when it comes to the hyperloop project or the invention of drones is enabling people to collaborate and think about new solutions together via crowdsourcing projects.
- For technology advancement, people do not need to rely on established corporations to come up with these anymore. The unfortunate reality for existing corporations is that once they have developed a technology / product, they go into execution mode and focus more on trying to “milk the cow” rather than on thinking about what could replace their technology overnight…They focus on sustaining engineering / innovation rather than disruptive innovation creation (less easy / more risky and it requires a different type of employee than the regular 9-5 one).
- Nonetheless, saying that all established businesses do not bring about disruptive innovation would be wrong. Many do this very well and, as a matter of fact, more and more so because of the changing landscape. You see many corporations establishing captive incubators in the hope of connecting to the startup world more and developing ideas that are outside their comfort zone. They also try to attract talented people that have a more entrepreneurial mind). In addition, these major corporations realize that they have a high incentive to make innovation work. This is no longer a buzz word that belongs just to the R&D department for them. Innovation is now a matter of survival…and when one realizes time is limited, things start to move more quickly as well…
Technological advancement causes disruption: Who may be affected?
If the above technologies prove to be successful, several parties could be significantly affected by these technological changes if they don’t realize what is going on early enough such as:
- Traditional automobile industries that will need to jump on the “band wagon” if not already (primarily with regard to advancements in electric, driverless car technologies and to some extent drones)
- Airline and train companies transporting products (shorter term) and people (mid- to longer term, specifically with regard to projects such as the Hyperloop)
- Oil producing countries: It is already clear that countries like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates are working hard at diversifying their economies as, for example, oil currently accounts for 70% of Saudi Arabia’s revenue. Just this month in May, the reorganization of the Petroleum Ministry into the Energy Ministry and the establishment of a new Minister of Investment, Culture and Hobbies. It’s also not uncommon for governments to call upon start-up experts to help drive the acceleration of economic transformation. These regions are heavily betting on start-ups to drive innovation and support their future…
More to come, comments are more than welcome…
Here is one more video from Alexey Zakharov for the eyes pleasure: A futuristic vision of the future – Look carefully and you will see the hyperloop…