Planning the future for transport

  • Put ‘traffic accident’ into Google images and look at the results.
  • Put ‘traffic pollution’ into Google images and look at the results.
  • Put ‘traffic congestion’ into Google images and look at the results.


The shocking and shameful results you will find (environmental, economic and social) are the price we pay for today’s failing motorised transport systems. In this day and age the present situation is completely unsatisfactory; nor is it sustainable.  Few would disagree with this; there is an overwhelming amount of evidence including graphic images and statistics available which outline the shocking extent and magnitude of the problems. Despite all of this, nowhere is there detailed and realistic vision of any viable alternative. While many have tried, no transport system in existence (or even in concept) will fix these problems – not trains not hyperloop and certainly not cars – electric or autonomous or otherwise.  Yet we NEED a sustainable, safe, efficient and effective human transport solution. Electric and autonomous cars on the roads (as envisaged) cannot provide the solution, and the reason why is simple and will be outlined here.

Once we accept these truths, we can look at the problem differently – from a planning perspective; from a user-centric perspective; in other words from a fresh and innovative perspective. When we do this we can see that a truly viable NEW visualisation of a sustainable human transportation system is possible.  In this document, we’ll outline the paradigm behind such a system. So have faith, there IS an answer for sustainable future transport which is not only possible, but superior ecologically, socially and economically to the other so-called alternatives. It’s already been designed and it leverages smart technologies and combines them in new and innovative ways to give us a user-friendly, efficient, effective way to transport people. Curious? Good, read on!

Planning is where the problem lies, and where the solution will be found.

So let’s get serious about finding the solution, and this must start with planning. All people and organisations presently involved in transport planning are faced with an impossible task, and they are doing a great job considering the hand they have been dealt. With respect, unfortunately the end result (beyond their control) is there for all to see, and no one should kid themselves, it is an unmitigated failure. The reason for that is simple. The problem is being approached from the wrong direction, with all kinds of vehicles being produced (including electric and autonomous) leaving the planners with the impossible task of trying to create a functional system for an unknown and changing mix of vehicles, drivers and combinations therein.

There are thousands of people employed worldwide, working on future transport planning, right across the board; from city streets to motorways and everything in-between. They are not employed to identify or project any potential problematic areas, failings or dysfunctional areas that may exist or arise with systems in the future. They are simply tasked with trying to design and provide systems to accommodate the vehicles and equipment currently being produced, even though the vehicles and systems are unbelievably inefficient, dangerous and environmentally damaging.

When one works within a fundamentally flawed system, even at best, one can only create a flawed outcome.  With clever design the net outcome might be less flawed than current reality, but it can only be as good as the framework and parameters it exists within.  There are some fundamental problems with our current system: One is capacity of the infrastructure, another is speed of the vehicles and together they result in perhaps the number one challenge of today’s transport planners – the massive and increasing problem of congestion.  At some point (sooner rather than later) there must be a concerted effort to address this and start to look at transport from an integrated planning perspective; at the very least for the sake of the environment, to reduce transport emissions being just one imperative.

To have an understanding of how any system is able to operate successfully, planning is essential (be it transport or otherwise). There needs to be a determined effort to establish future long term requirements for efficiency, sustainability and integration of all the various transport systems and options. The lack of foresight, integration and planning has led to the present costly and confusing piecemeal situation. Having manifested over decades, all existing problems have been created and have spawned from cars and roads and as such, there is little or no chance of overcoming these problems to improve future transportation with this approach and way of thinking.

Nobody is coming at this problem from the right direction.  We need clear planning of a complete and integrated system: providing detailed explanations, indicating the type of equipment/vehicle required to perform specific functions for a sustainable outcome.

Efficiency’ must become a crucial consideration for sustainability, but has never been a key consideration in other so-called alternative transportation solutions.  Cars and roads are a case-in-point. In this day and age such huge inefficient use of energy and land is simply not acceptable, and is equally unsustainable.

Another essential future requirement that needs to be at the heart of and factored into future transport is ‘speed’. Transport infrastructure will always have capacity limits, and with the inevitable increasing volumes of traffic, these limits will be reached, resulting in yet more congestion and blockages. There is only one way this problem can be avoided or alleviated without infrastructure expansion, and that is by ‘increasing speed’, as faster individual movement yields more capacity. The economics of any transport system has to be volume and patronage dependant, so increased speed results in increased volume throughput, enhancing economic viability. When reductions in travel times and cost become evident increased patronage will naturally follow.  Even though speed is essential for progress, at present it is also totally off the radar, when the mind-set is stuck with cars. It is not even remotely possible or plausible to consider this as an option with cars and roads as they currently operate, due to very real safety concerns.

There are very simple solutions available, and future requirements will become visible when due consideration is given to all influencing and controlling factors. Because the solutions are off the radar at present, it will require open mindedness from planning industry leaders, prepared to understand and willing to consider options. They will need to accept ‘change is inevitable, progress is optional’, but let us be clear, success here must inevitably require significant change to the existing transport model.    

The solution will not come from the introduction of electric and autonomous cars, but from a radically different solution. People, however remain steadfast in their focus on improving cars, because they have a vested interest in doing so, and because ‘better the devil you know’. This, despite the fact that concentrating on cars as future transport solutions is throwing good money after bad, and wasting time and resources, which we can ill afford.  The problem is getting people to look beyond cars, when there are so many hypothetical projections and proposed solutions all involving cars.  Well, growth does not occur inside our comfort zone and given the rate at which our population is growing, we need to get outside our comfort zone and be audacious and think anew if we want to get ahead of the problems inherent in human transport.

Predictions and theories that electric and autonomous vehicles will be the future saviour, cannot be taken seriously without having full and comprehensive details and explanations, and these are simply not available. The belief that the arrival of these vehicles is imminent is not supported by open road results, and there are still a vast number of questions relating to operation and integration needing to be answered.  In the absence of details, it becomes unclear if these vehicles would be able to integrate with other road vehicles when the available infrastructure has to be equally accessible to all road-users, or overcome the system’s obvious inefficiencies and failings. This short-sighted thinking therefore renders them little more than hypothetical conjecture, coupled with an extreme dose of wishful thinking fuelled by uncertainty and desperation to find a comfortable solution.

If any reasonably competent engineer is to look at the amount of engineering processes, people and equipment required to produce a car (consisting of over 30,000 individual components), they should then ask themselves. “Is all this really required?” There can be no denying that the most common purpose of any vehicle is to provide transport for a single person. A vehicle that at best, takes up a whopping 5 cubic metres of space, weighs over 1000 kilograms, and requires 100 kilowatts for propulsion to do so – (all to move a 100kg person) – seriously? We can do SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS. Not only that, we can do it faster and safer if we move away from the idea of cars. The focus should initially be to provide fast, safe, low cost mobility for a single person.  Let’s no longer focus on cars and making them work. Let’s focus on transport and making that work! Let’s just see where that leads us. I can tell you, it won’t be to cars, as currently proposed.                                                                                           

A hundred years’ from now people are not going to be tootling around in some kind of future variant (electric, autonomous or otherwise) of the big heavy, mechanically complicated, expensive, inefficient metal (or whatever) boxes on wheels we have today, driving all over the place on an expansive earthen, concrete and asphalt constructed roadway, doing 50-100kph causing even more death, destruction, environmental damage and chaos than today.

Transport equipment and service as they operate today are 30 years behind where they should be. So why persevere with trying to make something as inefficient as the existing transport system work, when the efforts must inevitably prove to be futile anyway?. Let’s start to ‘change the ball game altogether’, by planning for a future which transforms human transport from the inefficient, dangerous and ineffective system we have today to a future where transport is fast, safe, efficient and sustainable.

The application of electric and autonomous cars today would be the same as would have been pre-automobiles by feeding the horse different food and teaching it to follow instructions without a bridle and reins. This would not have solved the problems of the time. Electric and autonomous vehicles will not solve today’s problems.

When the information and explanation available is understood, the world will be astounded that this has taken so long to come about. Comprehensive and complete technical information and details will be made available to interested parties on request.

So, now is the time to act.