The Future of Transportation.
Today's transport is embarrassingly primitive and is wasting a ridiculously amount of resources. All transport of goods, and passengers, can be automated in a way comparable to the automation of information transport over Internet.
An Access Point in every room In stead if having closets in every room of a house, every room should have an access point to the transportation-and-storage-network. Real storage can be in the basements of the building, in a nearby store or in large warehouses serving as major hubs in the transportation-network.
WTAS, Worldwide Transport And Storage Let's call this transportation-network "WTAS": Worldwide Transport And Storage.
WTAS: Worldwide Transport And Storage
The infrastructure of WTAS is the combination of storage and transport components, both mostly underground or under-water. Besides this hardware, there is control software which is distributed and integrated in all parts. The transport network is a worldwide network of pipes in which the actual transport is done at very high speed. Every pipe is used in one direction, except for some the end connections close to the access points.Pipes under ground or in the Oceans
The pipes are underground in tunnels, or under water in rivers, seas and oceans.
In long pipes, there is acceleration in the first half and deceleration in the second half. The transportation speed in the center is always the same and in fact the speed at any specific point in the pipe remains the same. Long pipes are varying in cross section to keep the capacity the same when the speed varies (comparable with the narrowing outlet of a toll-road plaza).
Interconnections require parallel pipes to synchronize speed before the actual interconnection (similar to ramps to a highway). The allowed acceleration is limited (in 3 dimensions) and managed by the control system and is strictly regulated different levels of quality of service (QoS).
Dynamic routing of packets.
The route of a packet is reviewed for changing conditions. The planned route of a packet is regularly reviewed while the package travels to choose the fastest path or the path which corresponds best with the requested QoS (quality of service).
Although each packet forwards its intended route each time the route is reviewed, the conditions may continuously change due to new packets in the system and route changes of others.
Low priority packets can be delayed, or even parked into temporary storage to give way to higher priority packets.
Packets may switch container on the fly.
Typical warehouse operations of unpacking, grouping and repacking are done while traveling. The system provides in transport and storage. This implies that even small objects can be requested from a storage (or factory) and send to any location. Such small packets will be grouped in larger containers which go tho that part of the world, and will separate from that container again when closer to the target.
Stopping a container for the exchange of packets with another container would tremendously increase the transport time (decelerating, stopping, parking, handling and accelerating again). Therefore the container system provides a mechanism for smaller packets to change container at any speed while traveling (technical solutions will be described later).
The planning of the switching of packets is integrated in the dynamic route planning of the packets.
Factories interconnect seamlessly with the network.
WTAS connects the machines in the factories, end-users and recycling factories. Factories get their materials from WTAS and output their products or half-products back into WTAS, where it can be stored or directly transported to the factory for the next production stage or to the end-user. Production machines can have direct connections to WTAS to their inputs and outputs. This makes it possible to have universal factories which produce whatever is required at any point in time and place, which reduces the need for storage and transport. The designer communicates the design to Internet, and WTAS chooses a factory based on the current location of the basic materials and the geographic location of the demand. All stocking is integrated into WTAS in a similar way as mass-storage of company information is gradually integrated in Internet.
Shops are pure software.
Shops all become on-line shops and are software-only, since all physical handling is replaced by sending instructions for transportation and storage to WTAS.
Energy is required for the acceleration of the packet-streams in the pipes. However, most of the energy for acceleration is recuperated in the deceleration. There are of course losses of energy by friction of all kind, but this is gradually reduced at all stages, resulting in a transportation system which uses only a very small fraction of the current transportation.
Quality of Service (QoS).
Every request for transportation / storage includes a request for minimal QoS. This includes security, delivery speed, priority, maximum acceleration, vibration, shock, sound, temperature, atmospheric pressure, regulations about hazardous materials and liquids, living or dead, human or not, etc.
As components of WTAS gain gradually more confidence, certificates for reliability and security are granted, and some trajectories can safely transport persons. It is not clear to me why this could be used in the long term, but for the first few hundred of years there will still be persons which find it necessary to travel.
Open Standards, Open Design.
For interoperability of WTAS, the standardization of interfaces of both hardware and software. Different designs can be used along each other, competing in price and QoS. Different transport pipe systems can seamless interconnect with different storage systems. Different carrier robots can be used in different pipe-systems, etc.
How to start?
The endeavor can start as point-to-point connections between major ports and major industrial centers (e.g. between Antwerp and an industrial center in Germany). It can be financed by a consortium between transportation companies and companies which build large tunnel drilling robots. The costs are huge, but compared to the cost of the road infrastructure combined with the cost of road-transport, the investment is well-used. Once it works well as point to point connection between hubs, the hub itself can be automated and relay packets without manual intervention. Storage can initially be integrated in the hub.
Once there, large distribution companies can join the endeavor, and local transportation companies can transport the goods in the rural areas where WTAS is not yet available at every home. From there the system can be gradually integrated in the world, directly connecting all needs for transportation at both production side, consumer side, recycling, etc. Gradually, regulations will be refined as a preparation to the opening of some parts of WTAS for passenger transport, with or without the room around them.
Wireless WTAS closets?
Wireless WTAS closets are a side development which is based on the gradual replacement of transportation by mini-factories which are based on nanotechnology. This gadget is out of the scope of this article since this article limits itself to things which can be realized right now.I am looking forward for a mobile with WTAS access.