Technology 6 min read

Elon Musk's Autonomous Trucks, Zero Emissions Cargo Ships and President Trump

Nikola One | the Nikola Motor Company

Nikola One | the Nikola Motor Company

With a rapidly changing world and the possibility of an obsolete infrastructure looming ahead, it’s time we ask ourselves an important question: what will the future of transportation look like?

As we advance on through Industry 4.0, we find ourselves facing the complete replacement of our infrastructure.

Oil-powered machines have allowed us to transport goods by land, sea, and air, and we have used this capability to great effect in much of the world. Yet, what will the future of transporting goods look like when we unveil autonomously driven vehicles and super-fast, energy efficient railways?

The first self-driving cars will be freight autonomous trucks.Click To Tweet

Well, believe it or not, some futurists already have answers to that question. What’s more, they have all the earmarks that the world community wants so badly: low emissions, autonomous operation, and in some cases, even blinding speeds of delivery.

But as much as new transportation methods make for a fancy conversation, and they do, it also behooves us to be aware of how people will adapt to that new future. After all, automated trucks won’t need drivers, and automated cargo ships won’t require a multitude dock workers, so how will people who work those jobs get by when those jobs are no longer there?

For that matter, what will happen to the demand for transportation when 3d printing and vertical farming seriously cut our need to move products from one place to another?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The best way to begin cracking this nut is the Edgy way, so let’s talk about the tech.

Autonomous Trucks: How Will we Transport Goods in the Near Future?

First up is land transportation, where, none other than Elon Musk has proposed autonomous trucks and a subterranean network to move goods.

autonomous trucks
Speaking of autonomous trucks | Nikola Motor Company |

We talked about it in more detail here, but the short version is that these two ideas could easily work together to reform how we transport goods across landmasses. The subterranean network is made up of landing pads that vehicles fit themselves into, which are then lowered into the network and transported at speeds exceeding 130 mph, and it isn’t a stretch to imagine those automated trucks speeding through those tunnels. In fact, given what we know about current research on automated vehicles, it may even be easier for them to dock themselves than it is to drive cross-country.

To our knowledge, Musk hasn’t said anything about combining those two ideas, but they fit together so well that if both were produced it would be a fair assumption that they will be compatible.

At sea, we have the Norwegian freight company Kongsberg, who has proposed a completely automated cargo ship that features short-range shipping with zero-emissions.

In this video, you’ll see their proposal to implement the ships at the YARA production plant as soon as 2018.

Not to toot our own horn, but we had our own idea for the future of air transports. In a word, Dirigibles. Or blimps, if you don’t like fancy words.

They aren’t fast, but they have other things going for them, like being both huge and cheap.

Once you get one in the air it isn’t hard to keep it there, and we wouldn’t need a new infrastructure for them because our existing infrastructure would suit them just fine. Add to that the carrying capacity that their size grants them and you have a low-cost, low-emission solution for those loads too heavy or cumbersome to fit into a truck or tunnel.

So, there are efficient ways of transporting goods to lower both costs and emissions already on the books, but how are governments around the world going to adapt to this global trend? To answer that, we’re going to focus on the United States and what the future may look like for their roads and runways.

Considering the Future of U.S. Transport

To start, let’s get one thing out of the way. With automation comes lost jobs, and in the case of the transportation industry, people are going to have to be open to training for more skilled jobs or managerial jobs that supervise automated trucks and other autonomous systems. Hopefully, those affected by this change will have the opportunity for that training, and it would be in the best interest of entrepreneurs to offer it because they will need a labor force with entirely new skillsets.

Also, it is important that we consider how much transportation we will actually need. Perhaps with the right kind of infrastructure we won’t even need to develop autonomous trucks.

Advances in vertical farming and 3d printing stand to provide many people with the goods they want or need without making them go anywhere to get them.

If such technologies advance quickly, then we may end up with more transportation solutions than there are problems.

I don’t like to focus on politics, but the government has a key role to play in the development of U.S. transportation because they set the policies under which new technologies are produced and implemented.

President Trump may be trying to revive coal and protect trucking jobs in the short term, but he’s also meeting with top tech advisors to plan for the future, so it is crucial that he recognizes the importance of allocating our tech resources with respect to our rapidly growing capabilities.

Oh, and don’t ever forget the children.

They are the future, after all, and the number of people who graduate college with a degree in the STEM fields will directly affect the pace of our technological development.

Now, you may think that this is up to our education systems, but if you do then we respectfully disagree.

Education has its part to play, but the real determiner is the parents. Statistically speaking, having involved parents is a huge factor in academic success, so it is important for parents to have an open dialogue with their children about entering a STEM field if the U.S. wants to produce the geniuses that are going to have to solve our future infrastructure woes.

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William McKinney

William is an English teacher, a card carrying nerd, And he may run for president in 2020. #truefact #voteforedgy

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