With pollution and toxic air attributed to around 9,500 deaths per year in London, the capital's transport needs a revolution.
Recently London mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced a £4.5 million investment in 1,500 new charging points for electric cars across the capital. This came after the government announced a ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2040.
Mr Khan also told the Evening Standard that
We have a bold ambition to make London’s transport system zero emission by 2050, and working with boroughs to roll out more charging infrastructure is a vital part of making this a reality.
So what else lies in store for the future of London’s transport?
It looks like we’re careering rapidly into an automated future, from automated washing machines and ovens to voice activated televisions and sound systems. Pretty soon there won’t be a need to move at all, and strenuous exercise like reaching for the remote will be a relic of the past — watch Wall-E for a visual demonstration of this. At the apex of this automated revolution is the much anticipated driverless car.
The predicted future of this has many iterations from the practical to the absurd. There’s plans for driverless bed pods for all night journeys, there’s cars with household interiors, and entertainment pods. It is hoped that the driverless cars will cut down on congestion, and will increase road safety due to the anti-collision technology utilised by driverless vehicles. Londoners could be able to summon driverless cars in the next two years, as the Department for Business and Transport has handed a consortium £12.8m to research and develop self driving technology ahead of a trial in the capital.
But the car is not the only form of transport that will lose humans at the controls. By the mid 2020s London could have its first influx of driverless tube trains — though the RMT have a lot to say about them. London firm Priestman Goode have designed the new trains, which will first run on the Piccadilly Line. The new tube’s will dispense with separate carriages, opting instead for one long open carriage similar to the trains that travel on the London Overground. They will no longer be the signal jamming sweatboxes of today either, as each tube will offer air conditioning and Wi-Fi.
It seems automation is the way forward for London. Last month, Londoners visiting the Olympic Park had the opportunity to peer into the future of bus travel. Visitors to the park could hop on a free electric shuttle to get around. Although you may be better off walking as the shuttle is limited to travelling at 5mph, but it boasts a thrilling top speed of 30mph on the open road.
With so much emphasis being put on driverless cars we seem to have lost interest in the much heralded flying car. The flying car was patented as early as 1841 by William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow. Sadly the idea for their monoplane never took off, and 176 years later we haven’t come much closer to creating the vehicle save for the myriad appearances in science fiction films.
But in 2020 that might all change, when the Slovakian designed AeroMobil will be made available to the public. If you have a million quid stashed somewhere then you may be able to pick one up yourself in a couple of years. Who knows quite how regulated these things will be — what are the rules about overtaking in the clouds? — but they sure look pretty.
If London gets any taller, than the prospect of a city wide sky rail could be on track, but the idea is not up in the air at the moment. Back to earth again, it won’t be an entirely driverless future for the capital, as TFL are investing a lot of time and money in encouraging people to cycle to work. This is an attempt to address congestion, pollution, and the pressure being put on London’s rail and other transport networks by the city’s expanding population; it could also have a shrinking effect on the population’s expanding waistline too. According to design company Aecom the “provision of twelve cycle-only lanes clearly marked blue, aim to increase cycling in London by 400 percent by 2025.”
So whatever the precise future of London's transport, it seems there will be a lot less effort involved for commuters in the capital. But the critical problem with driverless transportation and indeed automation in general, is the detrimental affect it will have on the labour market. There are currently 142,200 licensed taxi and private hire drivers in London, there are just over 3,000 tube drivers, and there’s around 25,000 bus drivers. That’s a lot of jobs to go missing if the city does dispense with DIY when going A to B.
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