Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, and transport is pushing the trend of sustainability with greener alternatives. Between commuting, sport, and public infrastructure, electrical enabled devices and vehicles are changing our expectations for the future. Here, we look at the technology which is changing transport.
While it is not exactly reinventing the wheel, electric bikes have revolutionised the way that we cycle. Strangely, the e-bike has been around for the best part of a century, but its prominence has been propelled in recent years as commuters look for greener and safer ways to commute.
The e-bike does not replace effort completely — users must still pedal to activate the motor. But the assisted momentum is useful for those difficult hills or long routes. In fact, where the average cyclist may only travel at about 10 miles per hour, e-bikes can hit speeds of 15.5 miles per hour in the UK, as is their legal limit. For people who use bicycles for commuting, this may reduce their journey time by 50 per cent.
Of course, e-bikes are a unique piece of technology as they encourage less-active individuals to take on a more active form of transport. Even light pedalling to activate the motor has health benefits. In time, the accessory may encourage people to ride a normal bicycle and put in the work for more health benefits. E-bikes, in this sense, can be a gateway to a healthier lifestyle.
Green alternatives to travel are not just shaking up commuting. Motorsport is the latest activity to be launched into a technologically enabled future. Formula E is a single-seater motorsport championship which uses only electric cars.
Its popularity is growing. Google has recorded an increased search power of 135 per cent between its conception in March 2011 and the closing of its sixth season in August 2020.
The sport has been hailed as an innovation to the traditional fuel-guzzling nature of motor racing. The sport was championed by MEP and then future-President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. He believed that the sport would inspire the electrification of the automobile industry, helping to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions through the introduction of hybrid and electric systems.
In December 2019, the sport’s governing body, the FIA, decided that from its 2020–21 season, Formula E would be given world championship status. This was a monumental move for the organisation, not to mention for a sport so young. The decision made Formula E the first single-seater racing series outside Formula One to be given world championship status. The popularity and new-found prominence of the electric sport prove the willingness of fans and the public to accept greener innovations of traditional activities.
The traditional children’s song may have to rejig a verse or two when they appreciate the future of public transport. The bus industry is now becoming both greener and more intelligent, with autonomous and electric vehicles.
In 2019, Volvo unveiled the world’s first full size autonomous electric bus. Two of the vehicles would be launched at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, trialling their use in a dedicated smart campus.
Of course, electric buses are not such a recent innovation, being common for public use across the world. There are currently 51 electric buses operating in London.
However, the innovation of autonomous electric buses makes the proposition of future public transport even more exciting. The Stagecoach Group has said it is trialling autonomous buses in a depot in Manchester.
The Society of Automotive Engineers has defined five levels of autonomy. Stage five means that vehicles are completely autonomous. Stagecoach has said its buses will operate at level four. This means that the buses will drive themselves, will not require the driver to take over for some manoeuvres, but it must meet specified conditions to engage in autonomy.
Technology has given us a reason to be excited about the future. Whether it means we can travel further afield on our bike or enjoy sustainable sport, technology means that everyone can have a stake in a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle. A small investment in these incredible innovations means that we can turn most aspects of our life into one of prosperity, be that commuting or enjoying time at home with the family.