In the year 1900, the two most used means of transport today (airplane and car) were still in diapers. The Wright brothers, among others, had begun to try some gliders. For 1903 they made the first flight with a motor, which lasted barely 12 seconds and traveled 36.5 meters. Around the world, less than ten thousand people had cars. In just a century, the world has been transformed by our devotion to these technologies. In 2004, 1,500 million airplane journeys were made (one flight for every four people on the planet). There are more than five hundred million vehicles on the planet (one for every thirteen people).
Long before the automobile and the airplane arrived, steam engine technology had created its own revolution in transportation. Until the railway networks were developed, in the 19th century, almost nobody left their city, town or village. The fastest means of transport was the horse. When the steam engine was invented in the 18th century, it was believed that it was dangerous to travel at speeds above 40 km / h. In 1916, people already used steam trains to cross the continents, comfortably and quickly. Today, some trains circulate regularly at 430 km / h.
The invention of the internal combustion engine, which worked with oil, led directly to the development of the automobile. This vehicle, more than any other, captivated the public, because it promised excitement, speed and the freedom to travel where one wanted. In the 1950s, there were already reliable engines that moved large planes economically. The era of the reactors had begun; Travel abroad quickly became popular. Every year the transport of people and merchandise grows, which supposes an increasing pressure for the transport networks. Decongestion and security are the new challenges for the future
Cutting-edge technology has been incorporated into all means of transport. The new advances in engineering, electronics manufacturing and information technology have marked our way of moving. The engines drive the vehicles more efficiently; the materials are becoming more solid and lighter, and the key components are smaller and smarter. Many new vehicles incorporate sensors capable of determining our exact position, using the GPS (global navigation system). Computers control everything from escalators to signals from favorite networks.
Almost all vehicles use gasoline as fuel, a derivative of petroleum, and produce gases that are changing the planet’s climate. In addition, the reserves of oil and other fossil fuels are depleted, and demand continues to grow, so now it is urgent to find alternative forms of energy. One of the most promising is the fuel cell, which generates electricity with hydrogen gas and oxygen. The residue that creates is harmless: water. The search for alternative energies is crucial to create sustainable transport and a clean future.
“In 1900, less than one person in ten thousand had a car. Today, there is one car for every thirteen people “.
Currently, we travel further, faster and more often than ever. With so many journeys by land and air, one of the great challenges of the 21st century is the development of a technology that manages our overloaded transportation systems.
Traffic management systems will gain importance. In 2010, most drivers will have integrated satellite systems in their cars that will guide them through the cities and will direct them through less saturated routes. These systems could even drive the cars on their own while we lie down to watch a movie, work or talk on the phone. The trains will be continuously communicated by centralized computers that will coordinate the networks; Air traffic control will use airplanes with a technology capable of communicating directly with ground computers.
If the current trend continues, in 2020 more than two billion trips will be made every year. To meet this demand, new types of aircraft are being designed, simulated by computer and tested in wind tunnels. Super jumbos of two floors, like the Airbus A380, will be available soon every day. These huge airplanes will be able to transport more than five hundred people. In a less distant future, flying taxis capable of taking off and landing in a very small space will allow urban travel. New propulsion technologies have already allowed the development of the supersonic combustion ramjet, as powerful as a rocket, but designed to fly in the terrestrial atmosphere. This technology could lead to the development of a passenger plane capable of traveling almost 17,000 km in less than two hours (the distance from London to Sydney). The researchers predict that the ramjet could reach 15 times the speed of sound.
The marine depths, very little known, will be the only wild areas of our planet. The underwater wonders, such as the remains of the Titanic, the marine pits and even lost cities, could become tourist destinations. Tourists could finance their research, which will be carried out with agile mini-submarines of the latest generation, such as the Deep Fligth Aviator.
The space will also be a tourist destination. An experience previously reserved for astronauts is now available to people with a lot of money, and with time it will become cheaper. There will be planes capable of traveling to space. However, flights to space are very damaging to the atmosphere, so in the long term scientists are considering the possibility of building a space elevator that transports passengers and goods in and out of orbit. An extra strong cable, made of a carbon nanotube composite, would connect the elevator from a satellite to an island near the equator, probably made for that purpose.