Getting someone from point-A to point-B will often — even in the distant future — involve a variety of methods of transport. For example, getting someone from their home in San Francisco to an office in Los Angeles might primarily (the majority of the distance) be served by something like high-speed rail or Hyperloop. However, there’s still the need to get the person from their home to the train station in SF, and from the train station in LA to the office. Further, less common routes might involve transfers; for example, from regional rail to inter-regional hyperloop.
Containerization will allow someone to enter into the transportation module — a pod — at the beginning of their journey, and not have to exit it until they’ve reached their final destination. This is especially important when a passenger also has luggage.
I’m certainly not the first one to think of or write about this. I mostly just wanted to write about this for the fun of it; predicting some of the details of how some aspects will work, including ownership of the various parts, and billing (namely from the customer perspective). Maybe it could be a tiny bit useful to take into account when designing something like Hyperloop, or embarking on creating pods.
Why this matters now
- We are at the cusp of transportation automation. Self-driving cars are quite literally around the corner.
- Just as self-driving cars have becoming reasonable due to current technology (e.g., fast and portable computers, advanced software, efficient and lightweight batteries), the technology to support containerized passenger transport is also reasonable. That is, all of the ingredients are available and close to becoming economically, socially, and politically ready to deploy, including:
- Robotics to transfer a pod from one vehicle to another
- Self-driving vehicles that can bring a pod to anywhere a car can.
- Technology allowing real-time matching of a passenger with all the parties necessary to transport them, and billing.
- We are beginning to re-invest significantly in transportation infrastructure. For examples:
- In California: High-speed rail.
We should start designing and standardizing passenger transportation pods so that we are poised to start taking advantage of them as we get closer to major transportation infrastructure investments that are expected to have 50+-year lifespan.
What we can do now
- Begin to think about pod standardization
- … and much more… <TODO>
Passenger pods — what the passengers actually sit in — are the staple of this vision, as it’s what will most define their experience.
Also, as the one constant throughout the trip, it is also main channel through which billing must occur. That is, as the passenger’s pod embarks with, say, a train, the train will essentially bill the pod for the trip (including for, possibly, providing power to the pod).
While individuals could own pods, they probably won’t.
- People will likely want to use a variety of pods. One might be optimized for their daily commute (expected to take 45 minutes), while another might be optimized for long-distance travel (e.g., 6 hours).
- Just as we’re seeing with “ride-sharing” services (like Lyft), and as many are predicting with self-driving cars, not-owning your transportation vehicle/vessel is more economical. Owning your own vessel means your paying for it even when you’re not using it (often >95% of the time). Likewise, you don’t have to find — and pay for — a place for it while it sits idle while you’re at work.
Continue reading →