From self-driving cars to the Hyperloop, companies are investing in new ways for humans to get from point A to point B more efficiently.
Here's a look at some of the vehicles and transport systems that are being developed that could dramatically change how we travel on earth and, possibly, even to other planets.
Self-driving cars will help save lives and time.
Self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality.
Most major automakers aim to have a car on the market with an advanced semiautonomous system by 2020. And many of these car companies expect to have fully autonomous cars ready within the decade.
Self-driving cars are expected to bring some big advantages, especially when it comes to safety.
In fact, it's predicted that driverless-car adoption could help save thousands of lives annually.
According to a study by the Eno Centre for Transportation, if about 90% of cars on American roads were autonomous, the number of accidents would fall from 6 million a year to 1.3 million, and deaths would fall from 33,000 to 11,300.
Besides safety, autonomous vehicles are also expected to give people more free time, reduce carbon emissions, and help those who do not have the ability to drive — like elderly people — become more mobile.
Flying cars could make getting out of a traffic jam a cinch.
Flying cars may still be in their infancy, but they are gaining momentum.
In June, Bloomberg reported that Google cofounder Larry Page had invested some $100 million in a startup called Zee.Aero, which is working on the tech for a flying car. Page has also invested in another flying-car startup called Kitty Hawk, according to the report.
Neither Zee.Aero nor Kitty Hawk have revealed when their vehicles would be ready, but prototypes are reportedly well underway, according to the Bloomberg story.
Terrafugia, another flying-car startup, is aiming to have its newest flying vehicle, called the TF-X, flying by 2025. The TF-X will take off, fly, and land autonomously. It will also be a plug-in hybrid with a range of 500 miles.
Flying cars like the TF-X could open up an entirely new way for consumers to get around on a daily basis. Just think, if traffic is bad, you could opt to fly instead.
Autonomous passenger drones could make your commute a breeze.
Unlike flying cars, these large drones are just built for the sky and they could be here before you know it.
In January, the Chinese drone company EHang unveiled an electric autonomous drone that is capable of transporting a single passenger.
The personal autonomous aerial vehicle is called the EHang 184 and is about 4.9 feet tall, weighs 440 pounds, and can carry a load of 220 pounds.
The aircraft, which is entirely powered by electricity, is capable of carrying a single passenger 23 minutes at an average cruising speed of 62 mph, according to the company. The aircraft's maximum flying altitude is over 11,000 feet.
To get from point A to point B, a passenger simply enters their desired location into the smartphone app and the drone does the rest of the work.
EHang revealed earlier this month that it will begin testing the vehicle in Nevada later this year, so perhaps riding in your own personal drone isn't that far off.
Electric cars are already here and are helping make the world greener.
Electric cars are going mainstream. Numerous major automakers plan to roll out a fully electric, long-range car by the end of the decade.
While these vehicles will help reduce carbon emissions by simply being electric, they could also help bring about bigger changes to how power is supplied by putting pressure on utility companies to invest more heavily in renewable energy to meet the demand for electricity.
In fact, Solar City CEO Lyndon Rive told Tech Insider in June that he sees solar energy reaching a tipping point in just five years. The increased demand for electric cars will play a big role in this because there will be a growing need for storage solutions to power them, Rive said.
Electric planes will help reduce carbon emissions and noise pollution.
Like electric cars, electric planes are also becoming a reality.
NASA and major aircraft makers are working to develop electric-propulsion systems. These electric planes would greatly help reduce carbon emissions, as well as decrease noise pollution.
In June, NASA announced that it's developing a futuristic, all-electric airplane for its X-plane Series, called the X-57. The battery-powered plane will have 14 electric motors and feature a newly designed plane wing.
According to a Wall Street Journal report published in June, the X-57 could be ready to fly as soon as next year. And according to NASA, a commercial passenger plane with a fully electric propulsion system could be ready as soon as 2035.
Monorail systems like SkyTran could replace subways to help us quickly get around cities.
Autonomous monorails, like SkyTran, could dramatically improve your daily commute.
SkyTran cruises 20 feet above roads and can travel up to 155 mph, helping transform a two-hour car commute into a 10-minute journey, SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders previously told Tech Insider.
SkyTran's high-tech system is capable of learning what commuter demand will be like at different times, enabling it to increase the number of pods available at certain stations when needed.
To use the SkyTran system, users simply go to the nearest station and enter their destination on the SkyTran app. The app will then assign the user to a specific pod.
Sanders also told Tech Insider that SkyTran's tracks and stations are small enough that they could be built just about anywhere, including inside office buildings and airports.
SkyTran announced in May that by 2020 it will launch its first-ever track in Lagos, Nigeria, but it's aiming to bring its monorail system to other countries soon.
Self-driving shuttles could change public transportation.
Self-driving shuttles could change how people get around cities.
Instead of taking the bus or hailing a taxi, people could hitch a ride on a self-driving shuttle that can be requested via an app.
These kinds of driverless shuttles, which are already being tested in several cities, generally continue along a fixed route alongside normal traffic.
A French company called EasyMile is behind the development of a lot of the driverless shuttles being used in European cities. And the auto startup Local Motors created a driverless shuttle called Olli, which will be tested in Washington, DC, this summer.
Self-driving buses could provide another option for transporting people in crowded urban areas.
As the population in cities continues to increase, we will need more safe and efficient transport options.
To help meet this need, some companies are already working on self-driving buses.
For example, Mercedes-Benz announced its semiautonomous Future Bus in July. The Future Bus can recognize traffic lights, steer through tunnels, and can recognize pedestrians and bicyclists so that it can drive itself in certain situations.
Mercedes also claims its bus is more fuel efficient than your average city bus operated by a human because the self-driving system is always braking, accelerating, and shifting gears to optimize efficiency.
Right now, the Mercedes Future Bus has a top speed of 43 mph and is programmed to operate in bus-only lanes. This is because these lanes are usually easier to navigate since traffic is less complex. However, as technology progresses, the bus will get more self-driving capabilities.
Hyperloop systems could provide an affordable, efficient way to travel between major cities.
Traveling via passenger pods through tunnels at speeds exceeding 500 mph is bound to make traveling faster, but it could also make traveling more efficient.
Because the Hyperloop is in a controlled environment and is completely autonomous, you will never be delayed because of weather or because of an operator's error.
What's more, companies developing the Hyperloop aim to keep the price affordable.
“Any Hyperloop form of transportation is going to be extremely low cost,” Brogan BamBrogan, the former CTO of Hyperloop One, told Tech Insider earlier this year.
“All the value the Hyperloop brings isn’t worth it at a very high price. So our goal is to make Hyperloop very inexpensive to deploy relative to other forms of transportation, so that on top of that low cost you would also get the high-speed extremely safe and energy efficient,” he said.
Reusable rockets could revolutionize space travel and help make human life interplanetary.
Reusable rockets are key to making space travel more accessible. This is because if a rocket can be used more than once, the cost of spaceflight can be brought down significantly.
SpaceX and Blue Origin are leading the effort in making rockets reusable.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin, said he even envisions "millions of people living and working in space." Blue Origin has launched and landed its reusable rocket, called New Shepard, four times so far.
Elon Musk's company, SpaceX, has also made significant progress in developing its reusable rockets, which travel much faster and farther than Blue Origin's rockets.
SpaceX has launched and successfully landed four separate rockets. Three of the rockets landed on a drone ship in the middle of the sea and one landed on land.
Musk said SpaceX could reuse one of these retrieved rockets as soon as September and, according to him, the company could be sending people to live in space within the decade.
Speaking at a tech conference earlier this month, Musk said that he wants to land people on Mars in just nine years, by 2025.
"We're establishing cargo flights to Mars that people can count on," Musk said at the conference. "The Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous is only every 26 months, so there 'll be one in 2018; there'll be another one in 2020. And I think if things go according to plan, we should be able to launch people probably in 2024 with arrival in 2025."