Friday, August 26, 2011

Transportation: Are we there yet?

Transportation system comes in a whole lot of different forms. You can choose to walk, cycle, skate, swim or maybe travel by car, take a train or get on an aeroplane, boat, ship whichever's the most convenient.. but your choices are nearly endless!

To travel vertically we have elevators, escalators, rockets and jetpacks or if you're underwater; submarine!

Even though I agree that man has come a very far from his very first look at transportation, we seem to still have a long-LONG way to go considering that the principles behind the modes that we're using haven't changed much from the time they first left the drawing board.

For some reason, I don’t think that enough justice is being done when it comes to transportation.

In ancient times, kings would go by chariots pulled by beasts on roads. Today people travel by cars on raods. Somehow except for the part that things are more mechanized and made comfortable, the way we look at transportation is still the same.

For instance, look at the concept of transport by roads. This concept has been more or less the same through the ages. We have several models of Ferrari, volkswagon, audi, ford, rolce Royce, bentle, benz, maruthi, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Chevorlet, mitsubichi, tata, etc... yes these are several companies of cars and each company has its own models of cars.( In several cases the machines have been reverse engineered.) How ever the whole way of travelling has remained the same, viz. build a road from point A to point B and ride your vehicle over it.

We need to look at transportation itself in a whole new prespective, in order to cater to today's needs. The Wright brothers had come up with the concept of a runway for an airplane and even today this concept still hasn't changed much. Agreed that the runways are getting shorter and some jets have the ability of vertical takeoff; but consumer air travel still depends greatly on a runway.

The purpose of transportation is as much as the means as far as the method is considered.

You can see very clever design when it comes to Ski-lifts. (I wouldn't have known about this mode of transportation, if not for cartoons :P ) This mode of transport can be extended to buildings and local transports, how ever I still need to learn a lot about its functioning and short comings (^_^)

I had once seen a ‘Swat Kats’ episode, where the villain converts himself into electricity and goes from one place to another. This was later adapted in the cartoon series Spiderman too!
Speed is of the essence when it comes to travelling. We are always in a hurry to reach our destination. In most cases we tend to neglect on the technology behind the locomotive considering that we quickly adapt to a quicker means of transport even if it tends to be higher in cost. 

We find high-tension wires and electric cables everywhere, so why not use it for transportation purpose as well....

Yes this might seem too farfetched, but the device could be here anyday and the concept could be somewhat similar to a magnetic train, but in a much larger scale, and we might even have to use hybrid means that are available today like the hovercraft.

By the way one thing still gnaws at my mind. After the advent of the internet, the world has become a much smaller place, and we are still working on improving transportation (lol).

When you look at the design of the elevator, what beats my mind is that not much has changed in the design of an elevator from since its first emergence. Generally a load is used to balance the weight in the elevator, and the mass of the people acts as a counter weight to this. What really got my mind was, that I had seen a system of hovering elevator system in the cartoon series ‘Jetsons’, which seems very much practical to me. I wonder today’s elevator designs have not been improved to those standards!!! We even find a lot of hovering vehicles in the movie ‘Astro Boy’.

One more means of transportation which I remember from my childhood was a system of conveyors used to carry people from one place to another, which also appear in the series ‘Jetsons’, but this system had been proposed for one of the innovative design stated by the Japanese... And I had seen in Discovery channel that it would be a reality any day now. Where have all these ideas been thrown away?

Trains have been my fascination since childhood. I had read about several designs of trains that included, electric, magnetic, steam run, diesel, rocket-train, hower-train in a book that I had bought in a book fair. However, all I see being practically implemented are only the electric and steam run ones. I wonder why the others are not being run.

Practicality has been of lesser priority in most of such government run ventures. We have a lot to learn about transportation, when we look at the revolution that advent of internet has done. Yes every single aspect has been accepted very soon after its proposal and led to rise of the internet traffic which would look like a speeding train to a guy walking by the tracks.

We don’t have a separate system of transport for goods and humans. In most of the cases, goods are taken in the same manner as a locomotive. However, you must note that these two don’t behave alike when it comes to transportation. When transporting goods, it’s far less dependent on the speed, the space available, the need for a special kind of arrangement, such as chairs, bathrooms in an airplane.

In fact I think the whole system will have to be redesigned when it comes to sending goods from one point to another. A truck that carries petroleum from a place with a oil rig to a refinery runs empty on the way back because it is designed to do just that and it's impractical to carry something like mineral water in it! We see a lot of fresh ideas even today, for instance, In ‘Williwonka and the chocolate factory’, the shows a whole new way of sending chocolate across the transmitter/receiver ends. And then what about a design like the one in ‘5th element’ as a substitute for today’s cars.

It is a common practice to build ramps at several public buildings to aid the disabled people to access the building services. But as far at the research on human walk goes, the mechanism in going up the stairs is not that complicated and has been improved to a large extent. However the design from a wheel chair to a chair with pair of legs is yet to surprise me.

Yes we have done a very good job of coming up with a system of conveyor tracks to army tanks, but how about extending this system to everyday vehicles, so that we can benefit from the pros of such devices. despite several limitations, caterpillar tracks have their own advantages.

We have build bridges to enable us access to a pair of separated land mass. We have built huge satellites and robotic rovers to explore other celestial objects. As far as means of transport is concerned, we have all those that are required to reach every place that we have explored as of now. Still somehow there is that urge to say that we are not yet where we are supposed to be, because we never know what’s coming tomorrow.

It sometimes amazes us how we see lots of amphibious transports in movies, such as the use of a car turning into a boat in ‘James Bond’ movies, or how the submarine turns into a boat in ‘Spy Kids’. 

For one thing these movies serve as a good source for inspiration to the general viewers. But they also ensure that we have something to think about, once the movie is over. However everyone has his own life to get back to and the inspiration is soon forgotten.

I am sure that someday, these inventions will see their share of light and fame, but until that day, let us just pray that we can adapt to whatever we have ahead of us. 


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