Infrastructure is a boring word. And yet infrastructure itself – and transport infrastructure in particular – is a defining characteristic of human civilizations. The knowledge of the Incas and Romans in the field of road and dam design and engineering was the basis for the success of their respective empires.
Similarly, our modern world is developed through highways, railways, airports, and seaports that facilitate the movement of people and goods on a global scale. But this advancing world tends to outgrow or develop the usefulness of its infrastructure. Bridges built in one decade need more lanes in the next, airports require fewer parking spaces for cars and more pick-up spaces, and ports are already struggling with coastal reserves of cargo ships trucks stranded in traffic further slow down. To put it bluntly: The infrastructure we have in one era is not the infrastructure we will need in another.
Think of three transformational changes that will be difficult for our current infrastructure to support. Firstly, our cities are growing and have 70% of the human population He is expected to live in them by 2050, so our infrastructure will have to expand significantly. Secondly, because of this, many of our cities are facing serious threats due to climate change more than 90% of all urban areas are coastal, a condition that will require adaptable and resilient infrastructure. Third, infrastructure is no longer just physical; technologies, including artificial intelligence and augmented reality, are blurring the physical-digital differences and are beginning to unite them, and our infrastructure will have to operate within this new reality.
Given these transformational changes, there are three types of superpowers that we will need from the next generation of transport infrastructure.
Smart: Exactly as much code as concrete
Physical infrastructure tends to be rigid. For example, many traffic jams are directional; highways are bumper to bumper in one direction at the beginning of the day and then again at the end of the day, with the lanes in the opposite direction being free because they cannot bend dynamically. Digital technologies are helping to dispel this inflexibility. The slow and inefficient intersection we now have with traffic lights and traditional vehicles changes when the vehicles are interconnected and autonomous and their movements are controlled by computers.
Digital technologies are already being integrated into our transport infrastructure, albeit in a layered approach. Biometrics and robotics are now commonplace at airports and it is likely that a personalized path will be sought in the near future. Carriers have long since switched to cashless payments and the transport departments have already started using drones monitor highway traffic. This trend will continue, but with the infrastructure designed from the outset to include all the possibilities that digital technologies offer.
What can this new digital native infrastructure look like? “Pop-up” airports that use augmented reality to replicate navigation markers on temporary 3D printed runways and computer vision systems to remotely control tower operations. This kind of volatile, virtually managed airport is needed if we are to meet the demand for air travel in the next few decades – especially as passenger volumes change seasonally and increase at specific events such as the Super Bowl and spring break. Similarly, we will need ferry terminals that are able to switch between different types of voyages, from ferries with a number of on-board vehicles to others with pedestrian passengers changing to waiting vehicles to ride. This type of smart terminal will be required to take into account how autonomous and shared vehicles are developing our relationship with cars.
Sustainable: Juice makers for carbon-free mobility
We associate carbon emissions most directly with different ways – cars, trains, planes, trains, ships, etc. – and less so with the environments created to support them. For example, we could announce the dynamics of electric vehicle sales, ignoring the fact that energy from coal is still important almost 22% of electricity production in the United States – a declining figure that is still almost double that of wind and solar energy. Similarly, while there are exciting efforts to decarbonise naval ships, many cruise ships their diesel engines are still running in the port for generating electricity to keep the lights running, the kitchen running, pool heating and so on due to the lack of offshore electrical installations in which they would otherwise be involved. So while we need to decarbonise transport, we also need infrastructure that supports these carbon-free options and contributes to carbon-free energy.
There are the first examples of this approach. China has built its own the first highway with built-in induction charging for electric vehicles four years ago. Airports are gaining more and more interest renewable energy on site to ensure the reliability and isolation of their energy costs against fluctuations and falls in global markets. (Indianapolis International Airport now boasts the world’s largest solar airport with an installation covering 183 acres.) Trains in the Netherlands took place exclusively on wind energy from 2017. This shift towards a transport infrastructure based on renewables will continue as the world shifts from fossil fuels.
And while airports are adding solar and wind power plants, they can also develop integrated scarification to produce sustainable aviation fuel. This type of fuel, which can be obtained from several different raw materials, is currently the only viable alternative to conventional aviation fuel for the wide-range aircraft we use for long flights. Growing and processing raw materials such as Jatropha and Salicornia, vertically directly at the airport, uses large areas of real estate at airports and prevents competition for land with agriculture.
In the urban environment, the emergence of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) and battery-electric autonomous cars will be expected in the next decade to require clean energy networks in cities that will support all these batteries. As open space is scarce in cities, we should expect more infrastructure than that “Cap” designed in Seattle, which would cover part of the city ‘s interstate division, connect adjacent neighborhoods and create entirely new public spaces. These types of megasstructures could be designed as solar-powered multi-purpose hubs for air and land vehicles that would sit on existing highways.
Intermodal: Mushrooms for controlled delivery
Our current mobility ecosystem is multimodal. Our future mobility ecosystem is intermodal. This future is essential for transport systems, which are becoming increasingly autonomous, interconnected, electric and shared. This future – in which transport systems will be increasingly controlled by artificial intelligence – will optimize what the various methods do best (eg bicycles and scooters for fast trips in dense city blocks, autonomous commuters, eVTOL for flights up to 150 miles , etc.). They can then be combined in a way that balances the efficiency of the system with the needs of passengers. Right now, passengers are doing this sewing themselves and designing their own multimodal routes. Another big leap forward is when the computing power does it on our behalf, making every shared bike, car, bus, ferry, subway and plane part of the network and creating intermodal routes by doing all the planning, payment and challenges for us. . .
We will need the transport infrastructure that will evolve to provide this intermodal future. What will it look like? With a wide range of brush strokes, the infrastructure previously dedicated to the individual modalities is transformed into intermodal spaces. Airports will continue to facilitate commercial aviation, but their parking garages will evolve into centers for autonomous vehicle fleets and roof platforms for eVTOL and even short-haul airships. Metro and light rail lines will add cars for TSA screening, which will connect with shuttles that will transport passengers directly to the “air side” of these airports. Even what we once called bus shelters will turn into sidewalks for pedestrians who join anchored scooters and bicycles, shared vehicles, and dynamically sorted buses.