The World Revolutionary Commutes

“The daily commute is something we are all familiar with and sadly can have some pretty serious health effects”

Over the last 10 years, Annual commute times have increased by 18 hours according to the TUC. Innovators and creators are looking to tackle this and make lasting impacts on everyday people’s lives by doing their best to reduce commute times.

Some of these effects from people’s daily commute include high blood pressure, depression, increased BMI, and stress. According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD, Brits have one of the longest average commutes in the world with an average commute time of 45 minutes. Italy and the United States come out on top with an average commute time of 23 and 25 minutes respectively. Compared to the EU average of 38 minutes Americans and Italians seem to be doing pretty great.

High-speed transit is a core pillar of urban mobility and could have the biggest impact on reducing commute times for people all around the world. The biggest innovator in this space is Elon Musk (co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and founder of space transport company SpaceX) with his company Hyperloop one. An ultra-high-speed ground transportation system proposed in 2013 by Elon Musk, that works by reducing or removing air resistance from the train significantly increasing the top speed achievable and increasing the efficiency of the train. Musk plans to do this by building elevated tubes and underground tunnels that are then put under vacuum. Based off Robert Goddard’s Vactrain proposed by Goddard in 1909 based off an Atmospheric Railway conceived in 1799 by George Medhurst. So this is by no means a new concept and has been an ongoing area of investigation in science for a number of centuries. The Hyperloop one claims to be faster than the fastest high-speed rail with an estimated, blisteringly fast, top speed of 670 mph. On top of that, the Hyperloop one won’t operate like any other train that has existed in that it will be on demand. You pick when you want to leave and where you want to go and a pod will take you directly there without stops. Pods can depart up to several times per minute and are environmentally friendly with smaller environmental impact and no direct emissions or noise.

More and more cities are looking to reduce their carbon emissions and to improve the quality of their air. To achieve low emissions targets city centres are starting to implement low emission zones that charge tariffs on vehicles with high emissions to discourage their use in high population areas. This is a problem for many as Public transit commuting trips are on average 30 to 40% longer time wise than automobile trips. Fortunately, Electric Vehicles are becoming more prevalent, and having no emissions, will always be able to access these low emission zones. Now, here you might be thinking I’m going to talk to you about Tesla; and whilst they have lead the charge in the adoption of EV vehicles and have been the catalyst for the transition for manufacturers away from fossil fueled vehicles. However, I believe that it will be China that will take the baton and lead the charge. Now in part, this is due to simple economics, China is the world’s largest single vehicle market with 23 million cars sold in 2018 and there are still hundreds of millions of people who don’t own a vehicle let alone two. By 2015 EV car sales in China had already passed the US. So market size aside, the real deal is batteries. Battery technology and battery innovation is the only reason that electric vehicles are even possible.

China currently makes more than half the world’s electric vehicle batteries and, through government investment, will be scaling up its battery manufacturing to deliver 70% of the worlds EV batteries by 2021. Now, why is this important? Well once China puts its weight behind something, they really put their weight behind something and with scale comes reductions in costs. China currently is not a major player in the global Automotive industry has never been able to match the quality and efficiency of established western automakers when it came to making gas-powered vehicles. A big game changer for China though is that electric vehicles are must simpler to design and build giving Chinese firms a new opportunity to compete. The Chinese government has put billions of dollars behind subsidizing manufacturing of EV’s and batteries marking EV’s as one of their top 10 commercial centres central to it’s “Made in China” effort.

So EV’s will mean that commuters are able to drive into low emission zones for the foreseeable future, BUT, with commuting times still increasing it does mean more time spent behind the wheel. Driving whilst drowsy is as hazardous as driving whilst under the influence. Going 20 hours without sleep leaves you as impaired as driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the U.S. legal limit, and is responsible for 1,550 fatalities, 71,000 injuries, and an estimated 328,000 drowsy driving accidents in the UK alone. One technology that could make a real impact on this is self-driving cars. So-called Autonomous Vehicles or AV’s are vehicles equipped with onboard computers and control systems that allow them to drive themselves without human intervention or control. Using a combination of cameras, radar or LiDar a surveying technology that uses pulses of light, or laser scanning to create a 3D map of the world around the vehicle, vehicles then combine this technology with GPS data to navigate itself through the streets of the world. So for commuters, this could mean getting into your self-driving car, selecting work from your list of favourite destinations and your car will whisk you away to work giving you an extra 45 minutes to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Or if you have to travel for work, then it could give you the opportunity to sit and do some admin in the car whilst it takes you autonomously to your destination.

We live in an amazing time where so many innovators are creating technologies that will make our lives easier and could have real impacts that improve the quality of life for all of us. Commuting is a pain we all are subjected to on a daily basis but with these amazing technologies that are coming together, we could be seeing a real revolution in how we live our lives.

Here at Detekt, we love nothing more than breaking ground and pushing the envelope. If you want to be part of the revolution and create the next innovation in commuting then contact us today and see how we could shape the future of transport together.