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Three breathtaking transport innovations

From Hamburg to Berlin in 20 minutes? Simply flying over traffic jams? They’re still just visions, but some are already taking shape. An overview of the transport innovations of the future.

Even in the future, we won’t be flying through the air on witches’ brooms. But what about in a passenger drone or flying car? Or perhaps we will travel at over 1,000 kilometers per hour in capsules whizzing through tubes. Researchers and developers are actually already at work on these mobility concepts.

1. The high-fliers

In science fiction films, cars have been flying through the air for decades. What were fantasies not long ago are slowly but surely becoming reality. Many companies throughout the entire world are hard at work on shifting traffic from the roads to the sky. The biggest advantages are evident: roadways would become less congested. And in the air, cars have a nearly infinite number of lanes.

Considering the modular “Pop.Up Next” concept, Audi Board Member for Procurement Dr. Bernd Martens speaks of a “vision that could permanently change urban life.” In the distant future, this means of transportation is intended to convey city-dwellers quickly and comfortably on the road and in the sky, solving all manner of traffic problems along the way. The trick: The two-seat passenger cabin can be coupled with either a driving or a flying module. Four rotors enable the flying car to get off the ground.

Lifting off rather than sitting in a traffic jam

A similar concept is being pursued by the founders of Lilium. Their flying car can start and land vertically, will reportedly reach speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour and will have a range of up to 300 kilometers. The vehicle is to be powered electrically. But Lilium will not be a plane for your home garage. Users will use an app to summon the flying car, which will have space for up to five passengers. According to the project plan, the first manned Lilium jet is slated for takeoff in 2019. By 2025, the flying car will be waiting at the airport like a normal taxi or serve as an alternative to the train for daily commutes.

2. The hyper-speed train

Tesla-boss Elon Musk always causes a stir with his ideas. Whether it’s a tunnel boring machine, the settlement of Mars, or in the field of artificial intelligence, Musk is a visionary thinker. With regard to transport, Tesla is not only active in the area of electric mobility, but is also planning to revolutionize long-distance passenger and freight transport with his company Hyperloop One. The hyperloop concept is a high-speed transport system in which a maglev train glides through low pressure tubes. The tubes operate under a partial vacuum, allowing the transport pods to move with little resistance on cushions of air.

From Hamburg to Berlin in 20 minutes

In technical jargon, the hyperloop concept is known as Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies (ET3). The special thing about it: due to the partial vacuum in the tunnel, significantly higher speeds are possible with the same expenditure of energy. The hyperloop is said to be capable of reaching speeds up to 1,125 kilometers per hour. And there are already ideas in place for possible routes. One route is set to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There is also a hyperloop tube planned for Germany that would link the cities of Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Cologne and Hamburg. The trip from Hamburg to Berlin would take just 20 minutes.

  • By the way...

    The development of hyperloop technology began over 20 years ago. The ET3 Global Alliance was founded in 1997 with the goal of making long-distance travel faster and cleaner. In addition to Musk and Hyperloop, there are also other companies working on hyper-speed pods, such as the Canadian company TransPod. In contrast to the Hyperloop, the TransPod system uses moving electromagnetic fields rather than compressed air to propel the vehicles with stable levitation off the bottom surface.

3. Next stop: Mars

Elon Musk is active in the aerospace field as well. If the 47-year-old is to be believed, transport innovations of the future will not be limited to ones on Earth. With his company SpaceX, he’s working on technologies to enable humans to colonize Mars. Plans envision allowing the first human space flight to Mars in the SpaceX-developed Big Falcon Rocket. Musk is also working on how to make rocket components re-usable, which would lower the cost of rocket launches. Space travel for tourists are already offered by companies such as billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and market leader Space Adventures. But it will be some time before space travel is affordable for the mass market: Anousheh Ansari, the first space tourist, paid 16 million dollars for her ten-day trip into space.