How To Eliminate The Transportation ‘Brick Wall’

How To Eliminate The Transportation ‘Brick Wall’

Bill Ford, CEO of Ford Motor Company, told a crowd at a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference recently that the future of personal transportation will not be limited by CO2 emissions, or by rising fuel prices. He said it will be stopped by congestion, as we place more and more vehicles on an overtaxed and inadequate infrastructure. Mr. Ford felt that novel ideas will need to be embraced if we are to continue traveling in a personal vehicle, as it has been obvious that despite the availability of low-cost public transportation, people in many countries, including the US, have chosen not to travel in that manner.

The nine-day traffic jam near Beijing in the Spring of 2011 is just one example of what is to come if we continue down the road we are driving. Imagine what it must be like to wait by your car for nine days until a traffic jam gets untangled? And yet, the average American will sit in their car for at least two weeks out of the year, according to 2009 data, just in commute hours to and from work.

Some people take pleasure in going for a drive. I am one of those people. I like to get out and ‘change the scenery. You are expanding your space, getting a different perspective on the world around you, and the people around you. It is a freedom that not everyone has, but most want. That is the biggest problem to this whole scenario. Countries that are up-and-coming have citizens who are newly becoming affluent. A car is one of the main purchases being sought, causing vehicles to be added to the road systems by the millions in China, India, and South America. Have you tried to drive into Sao Paulo, Brazil lately?

Gridlock occurs on a daily basis in most metropolitan areas of the world. London, New York, LA, Hong Kong, New Dehli. At some point in the future, it will simply come to a standstill. There are insufficient traffic lanes, and with urban sprawl crowding up against existing freeways, there is limited room to add more lanes. Adding new freeways over the top of those that exist would be incredibly expensive and disruptive to the existing traffic, bringing traffic to a standstill due to the construction itself.

While this may not be news to you, there is a definite situation looming, and ignoring it will not make it go away. So how can this be handled? How can we gain more traffic lanes without incurring the liabilities inherent in that activity? How can we reduce the time spent in transit, along with reducing the energy used and emissions produced? Look up. Go outside and look up. See any traffic jams? Not likely.

There are tremendous potentials for growth which require adding a small amount of infrastructure. By traveling point-to-point through the air, travel times can be reduced significantly even if we were to simply stay on one new level up in the sky. The nice part is that there are multiple layers of traffic available by ‘going up’, and you don’t spend a dime to build them.

Considering the advanced state of current technology, this is not that far-fetched. The concept of transportation being in the air is the commonly held viewpoint of the future. How many popular movies with a futuristic setting feature flying cars? Star Wars, Fifth Element, Star Trek, Blade Runner to name just a few. Come on, admit it. Even you feel that the future is in the air.

So how do we get there, and what would be some first steps? Well, we don’t have cars that fly, at least not like the movies show. Currently we still need runways, even for the recent batch of flying cars just coming into production. In the US, there are almost 20,000 airports, although less than 6,000 are open to the public. Still, that means that most Americans live within 15 minutes of an airport they could use. While this is good, an improvement could be made with minimal infrastructure cost that would increase the options when it comes time to travel.

Call them Portals. Okay, I just came up with the name, but it describes what they do. They are portals, or openings, to that new environment 1,000 feet above your head. These Portals would be small air strips along the freeways and highways near residential and business centers, constructed of concrete blocks set in compacted earth with grass growing through them. This would be sufficient to handle the take-off and landings of many of the new breed of flying cars, and not incur the wrath of red ink from the finance department.

Now, before you go screaming out the door with visions of airplanes crashing into congested traffic along a freeway, just imagine what you would do if your engine quit and you were forced to land just after take-off. Are you going to choose the sea of cars, or the open strip of freeway going the other direction? You get the point.

So in this case, you could drive your newly acquired flying car from your home perhaps six minutes to the local Portal, and take off. Where could you go? Anywhere you like. How fast can you go there? Up to 200 mph. Traffic jams: none. Toll bridges or roads: none. Construction delays: nope. Weather delays: okay, you got me. There are still times when it is best to be on the road. With a flying car, that becomes your saving grace. If you don’t like the weather ahead, drive through it and take off again. If you are trying to avoid some nasty weather bearing down on you, you can’t escape any faster than flying 200 mph directly away without any delays or traffic slows.

By now you might allow that a savings in time could be possible. How about energy? Doesn’t it take more energy to fly than it does to drive? The answer is yes, however according to studies by the US Department of Transportation, point-to-point transportation is the clear winner even compared to mass transit. This is due to the unique potential to shorten the distance and time enroute. Remember those two weeks spent in traffic jams each year? Imagine no traffic, and you fly almost a straight line, not following the meanderings of the road system.

The technology to produce flying cars exists. There is no requirement for a complex ‘unobtanium’ solution or material. I do have to say from personal experience that flying cars will cost more than a Toyota Corolla. And you do have to learn to fly (not as hard as it may seem).

But think of taking a drive, and looking down on a whole new view of the world from 1,000 feet up. You would get to see things that you never dreamed existed. You could go where you were never able to get to before. The world opens up, and there is plenty of room to expand. By the time we get crowded in the air, the technology to operate in space will open up new frontiers. Did I mention Star Trek?

Sam Bousfield
Samson Aircraft, Inc.

Inventor and entrepreneur, designer of the Switchblade driving/flying vehicle. Sam Bousfield is 55 years old, and has formed three businesses involving transportation and energy.

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