Transport of the future: how and what we will use in 30 years


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Almost all science fiction writers described the image of the car of the future. Kirill Zhanaidarov, head of the transport department of the Skolkovo Foundation, tried himself in this role and imagined what transport would be like in 30 years

In 2023, Xu Techs 4 years old. As part of the anniversary, we decided not to look back to the past, but rather to look forward to the future.

The Xu Techs team is taking up the initiative: columns by visionaries from the fields of science, education, technology, society, ecology, and education will appear on the project website . Together with them, we will try to imagine how the world will change within 30 years, what it will be like in 2053, and what place people will occupy in it. The project does not imply accurate forecasts; together with experts, we are trying to imagine possible directions and scenarios for the development of our society, based on current trends.


Current trends: abandonment of personal transport and driverless cars
Before talking about possible trends and technologies in the coming decades, it is necessary to note the fact that the future has already arrived. Self-driving trucks transport cargo along busy highways and operate in harsh climates. Robots are driving taxis. Electric cars are taking over the market. In every more or less large city there are all kinds of transport rental services: bike sharing, car sharing, kick sharing, carpooling, ride sharing. New models of public transport use are emerging. The car itself turns from a means of transportation into a multifunctional gadget. It acquires more and more independent functions and is able to “communicate” with the external environment.

All types of rentals
Almost all advanced technologies that are being actively implemented in the transport sector today hint to us that over time we will completely abandon personal vehicles. There are several reasons for this. Owning a personal vehicle is already more expensive than using a taxi or car sharing. The second important point is efficiency. A personal car is used on average one to two hours a day, and most of the time is idle, taking up already scarce urban space. The sharing vehicle now travels up to eight hours a day.

Drones in b2b
Another obvious trend of tomorrow is self-driving technology. The introduction of unmanned vehicles did not begin today or even yesterday: the first prototypes were created in the middle of the 20th century, and began to be fully implemented after technological competitions such as the “Winter City” from Skolkovo, RVC and NTI.

The introduction of unmanned vehicles in the b2b segment is progressing by leaps and bounds. The volume of the Russian drone market at the end of last year amounted to about ₽14.7 billion, and over the horizon of 5–7 years, the maximum market capacity under an optimistic scenario could grow to ₽500 billion. This forecast is given by experts from the state corporation VEB.RF.

In June 2023, the commercial transportation of goods along the M-11 federal highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg was launched by KAMAZ and SberAvtoTech teams. Unmanned trucks are already working in quarries, transporting cargo in permafrost and inside logistics centers. The main task of robots is to relieve humans from routine work. In addition, all people need rest, and the right to days off is enshrined in law. Robots cannot get tired, they don’t get sick, and they don’t need vacation. The economic effect of using robots is obvious.

The key builders of the drone market, according to experts, will be technology holdings that gather the main players around them. Thus, the BAS Consortium (created by Russian Post and Skolkovo Capital) and other operators being created will expand the demand for production and will invest in the entire value chain – from development and production to services.

Separately, it is necessary to highlight urban cleaning equipment. The demand for its services will also only grow. At the end of summer, a new Center for Urban Robotics will be launched on the Skolkovo territory. It is designed to structure the market for robots in the field of maintaining the urban environment and teach them to work effectively together.

Drones in b2c
Representatives of the business community are interested in unmanned cargo transportation, and ordinary people want unmanned taxis. In the summer, Yandex launched an unmanned taxi service and transports passengers in the Moscow Yasenevo district, which has become a kind of testing ground within the city.

Many people are interested in what problems and pitfalls operators and developers face at the stage of testing unmanned taxis. Robots are quite successful at driving a car in urban traffic conditions, but sometimes some problems arise when interacting with a person. People sometimes make spontaneous decisions. For example, getting out of the vehicle before reaching the final point of the route. The robot must be able to respond to such spontaneous needs and quickly make decisions, and the person, in turn, must follow the rules for using an unmanned taxi. There are also cases of vandalism by people and force majeure situations when a person suddenly becomes ill in the taxi cabin. Taking these points into account, I would focus on training cars in the format not “robot – road”, but “robot – passenger”.

Every day we see an increasingly large-scale penetration of unmanned technologies into various types of transport. Rail transport, along with the logistics sector, can be automated in the near future. I am also confident that in the foreseeable future we will be able to ride on an unmanned water bus.

Flying cars
The icing on the cake of all unmanned transport is the air taxi. We have seen flying cars in many science fiction films of the past. Today we are closer than ever to the real implementation of this technology. The vertical take-off vehicle market is growing at a rate that is significantly faster than previously predicted. Vertical take-off and no need for a runway are obvious advantages for the city. At the same time, there are a number of technological problems that need to be solved. It is necessary to ensure a good flight range (given the heavy batteries) and stability of the vehicle. It is necessary to develop and implement an unmanned control system. Another important point is the flight corridors. We really wouldn’t want cars to fall on the heads of people walking along the street in the event of an emergency, so it’s important to create new transport corridors. For example, using rivers for flights, at least at the first stage, then, apparently, railway lines and roads will be added.
Will all drivers be left without work?
What about the drivers? Will robots and artificial intelligence take jobs away from people? Such questions are very popular today. The answer, in my opinion, is obvious. The disappearance of coachmen and cab drivers at the beginning of the 20th century did not bring down the world, but, on the contrary, led to the evolution of the profession. Technological progress has always accompanied us and encouraged people to learn and master new tasks. Unmanned technologies are provoking the emergence of hundreds of new companies and thousands of high-tech jobs in related areas, where the development of a component base, smart mobility services, IT solutions and much more is being carried out.

What will the transport of the future be like?
Summarizing all of the above, let’s try to highlight the key criteria for transport and transport infrastructure of tomorrow. The first criterion for the transport of the future is self-driving. The second is the modularity of the car design. It will have a single platform that will allow you to quickly implement any solution within its functionality. The versatility of the platform is the basis of new mobility.

Another criterion is the electric motor. We are already seeing a steady growth in the production and sales of electric vehicles around the world. Absolutely all automakers in Russia have announced plans to produce electric vehicles and components for them. Perhaps someday engineers will be able to use hydrogen fuel cells, which will reduce the weight of the car and increase the length of the trip on a single charge.

Infrastructure for the transport of the future
Having a car, and even an unmanned one, requires appropriate infrastructure. Thus, the transition to electric transport requires a high speed of refueling the vehicle. The power of charging stations is constantly growing. I think that within ten years, electric cars will charge as quickly as gasoline-powered cars charge today. In this direction, I can mention the Skolkovo resident company Yablochkov. She recently presented a prototype of contactless charging. Mobile mobile charging stations for emergency recharging of electric vehicles and battery recycling systems will also be in demand. The electric car, like the drone, will create a large number of sub-industries.

In general, when thinking about the transport of the future, it is quite difficult to make long-term forecasts. The possibilities of humanity are almost limitless. We easily accept new technologies and create them. It is quite possible that someday the surface of the Earth will be accessible only to people, and all transport will go into underground high-speed tunnels under cities. I also do not rule out that flying unmanned electric cars in 50 years will be as affordable as renting a bicycle or electric scooter is today.


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