What Will Transportation Look Like In 2050 – By 2050, the ways we get from point A to point B will change dramatically, thanks to automation, machine learning, hyperfast transportation, and subrail spaceflight.
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- 1 What Will Transportation Look Like In 2050
- 2 How Will Lehigh Valley Transportation Look In 2050? Long Range Plan Outlines $4.4b In Projects.
- 3 The Road To Sustainable Transport
- 4 European Shipping Will Be Dependent On Fossil Fuels Beyond 2050, Study
What Will Transportation Look Like In 2050
Welcome back to our “Life in 2050” series! In previous chapters we have looked at how rapid change and environmental problems will affect the future of the military, economy, education, daily life and space exploration (two chapters). Today we’re looking at how people will get from point A to point B in the middle of the century, whether it’s across town, from one city to another, or from one continent to another.
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Another sector that is expected to undergo a major revolution in the coming years is transportation. In many ways, this revolution has already begun, thanks to the introduction of autonomous vehicles, the proliferation of electric vehicles, the growth of renewable energy, and the advent of commercial spaceflight.
Between now and 2050, these technologies and developments will accelerate and lead to the creation of new transportation infrastructures that are completely different from what we know today. All told, the following factors will contribute to this revolution:
Of course, tomorrow’s infrastructure will be based on existing transportation networks. These consist of urban centers with automatic traffic control systems, public transportation systems located next to the road network, highways and rail systems connecting major urban centers, and airports providing flights between countries and continents.
The problem with current infrastructure is that it is dependent on fossil fuels and is aging and deteriorating. According to a 2020 analysis by the American Association of Highway and Transportation Builders, there were approximately 231,000 bridges in the United States (more than 1/3)
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Similarly, in the 2017 report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), 137 countries were ranked according to their economic competitiveness. As noted in the report, developed countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the USA and the UK have all faced the problem of infrastructure degradation. The condition of roads and bridges in particular was a source of great concern.
But the growing problem of climate change complicates things a bit. Rather than simply repairing their aging infrastructures, developed countries need to make some improvements to their transportation systems with sustainability in mind. As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
In addition to the increased demand for food, water and public services (such as electricity) that this growth in transportation will bring, it will also lead to an increase in air pollution. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s 2012 report titled “Environmental Outlook to 2050”, emissions of greenhouse gases, particulate matter and ground-level ozone will increase significantly by 2050.
This could also mean that the number of premature deaths from air pollution could double to 3.6 million deaths annually (most of which occur in China and India). These figures become particularly worrying when considering the younger generations who will suffer higher death rates as a result.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.8 billion children (93%) worldwide breathe toxic air every day, resulting in 600,000 deaths in 2016 alone. This problem will worsen as the majority of urban population growth is predicted to occur in the developing world. Access to medical care is less in these places, and energy is still largely produced by non-renewable energy sources.
In short, by 2050, urban air pollution is predicted to be the leading cause of environmental deaths, following epidemics, contaminated water, and lack of access to sanitation and medical care. Addressing urban transportation is therefore becoming a public health issue as well as part of the global effort to combat climate change.
In parallel with the changing nature of cities, the nature of urban transportation will also change significantly. Between 2021 and 2050, the urban population will continue to increase, outpacing the rural population growth. This will create a two-fold challenge, as more people living in cities will mean increased demand for food, shelter, education and basic services.
Urban expansion will mean less arable land and green space for growing food, as well as placing greater strain on our dwindling freshwater resources. However, there is another side to this situation, where cities are centers of innovation and development; This means larger urban populations can develop new solutions for sustainable living.
The Road To Sustainable Transport
According to the 2019 report titled “World Population Outlook 2019” compiled by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world population is expected to reach 9.74 billion by the middle of the century. There are about 2 billion more in almost three decades. In addition to the number of people, there is also the question of where they will live.
Today is approx. 56% of the world’s population, approximately 4.4 billion people, live in urban areas rather than rural areas. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the global urban population is projected to increase to 6.6 billion by 2050, accounting for approximately 68% of the human population.
Similarly, urban growth will also mean that some cities will outpace others and become ‘megacities’. According to UNDESA, in 1990 there were only 10 megacities, urban areas, in the world with a population of 10 million or more. There are 33 megacities in the world today, the largest being Osaka (19 million people) and Tokyo (37 million).
It is predicted that by 2030 the number of megacities will reach 43 and most of them will be located in Africa, Asia and South America. The Global City Working Group predicts there will be 50 megacities by 2050, of which only five will be located in Western Europe or North America (New York City, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Paris).
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Today, one in eight people (12.5%) live in 33 megacities, while the majority of the world’s 4.4 billion urban residents still live in small cities with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. By 2050, almost a fifth (20%) of the 6.6 billion city dwellers will live in one of 50 megacities worldwide.
By 2050, electric vehicle (EV) sales will reach 62 million units per year, including 700 million electric vehicles worldwide. In terms of total sales, electric vehicles will account for 56% of the global market, surpassing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which will account for the remaining 44%. This transition will also be accompanied by major changes in the nature of infrastructure.
Charging stations will be more common than gas stations by 2050 and will benefit from the increasing use of renewable energy and “smart grid” technology. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that by 2050, 49% of the world’s electricity will come from renewable energy sources, followed by natural gas (23%), coal (23%) and nuclear energy (5%).
This allows charging stations to be built wherever a distributed power array is available. Biofuel stations will also become a natural feature thanks to increased carbon capture being incorporated into future urban development. These processes rely on titanium dioxide (TiO²) or biomass (in the case of BECCS) to chemically “scavenge” CO² from the air.
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In the first case, the captured carbon is then processed with water and an electrocatalyst, allowing ethanol to be used as biofuel. As well as food waste being processed to make biodiesel, older vehicles will be able to refuel at significantly ‘greener’ petrol stations. The carbon captured by the BECCS process can be used to produce electricity, heat and more biofuels.
So, for many commuters in 2050, keeping the car charged (or ‘fueled up’) will mean needing access to a charging station located anywhere in the city or in the countryside (usually wherever a large solar array or wind farm is installed). It will be a simple matter of leaving. Alternatively, you can buy biofuel by going to an urban gas farm, where the fuel is produced on-site using urban air pollution!
Another fascinating development is the increasing prevalence of electronic vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), short takeoff and landing (STOL) and private aircraft (PAV) concepts. In this age where traffic congestion is a big problem, big city residents will be able to hail taxis not only from the street but also from the roof!
Just as people hail Uber, Lyft, or traditional taxis from their smartphones, city dwellers in the near future will be able to request air taxis from existing rooftop helicopters or small landing pads around the city. As air taxis become more common, it is also likely that private “airports” will be built in urban areas.
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Some current examples of air taxis and PAVs include the Boeing NeXT spacecraft, Vertical VA-X4, EHang Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV), Jaunt/Carter PAV, VolocopterVoloCity air taxi, Lilium Jet, and Personal Air and Ground. Vehicle (PAL-V). By 2050, electric flying taxis will likely become a regular part of city life.
Public transport is expected to make a significant comeback due to the growth of cities, socio-economic changes and demographic changes; all of which will force major cities to improve their infrastructure or face urban decay. In the report titled “The Future of Railway”
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