The Future Car chain: It’s a car, it’s a bus, it’s a train, and it runs on your personalized route and schedule
What if you could have a high-speed train that picks you up at your home and drops you exactly at your destination, on your schedule? In the future, cost effective autonomous intercity highway driving may become economical in part by electronically linking individual autonomous pods into a high-speed chain that could travel on highways at train-like speeds of over 150 miles per hour.
An individual autonomous pod will pick passengers up at home and then move to the highway where the pod chain will part to let a pod in or out. Unlike trains of today, a much greater level of convenience can be achieved as there is no fixed schedule; riders will leave and arrive when it meets their needs, leaving directly from home and arriving at their destination. Significant efficiency gains at high speed could also be achieved as air flows smoothly over the entire chain while only the lead pod encounters significant power burning aerodynamic resistance.
This chained herd of pods will not only make highway driving more efficient and convenient, but efficiency gains will extend to city driving. For instance, a string of six or seven cars can simultaneously accelerate after stopping at an intersection. With human drivers, it takes several seconds for each driver to react and start to move when a red light turns green; as a result, cars at the end of the line may not make it through a light, especially if drivers in front of them are distracted by non-driving tasks such as texting. The ability for a line of cars to simultaneously accelerate is just one example of how traffic flow will improve, resulting in fewer vehicles required to move the same number of people and reducing the cost of transportation.
Today’s mobility service providers operate in cities or greater metropolitan areas but typically do not focus on intercity travel, especially at longer distances. Travel between cities relies on trains or planes that run on a fixed schedule. In the future, technologies like the Hyperloop will revolutionize long distance travel, but may not be optimal or convenient for medium distances of less than two or three hundred miles.
Companies like Next Future Transportation are already taking steps to make transportation systems like this a reality within cities. In their concept, once the chain is assembled passengers can move from pod to pod depending on their final destination. In addition, efficiency gains result by putting only the number of pods you need on the street, depending on the time of day or events occurring within a city. Why operate a full size bus that is half empty when you can more efficiently run a half size bus that is full?
So, get ready. An autonomous car chain may soon be making a stop at your home.