We are all victims of the age we live in. It is difficult to imagine a different time. The inventions that exist today seem obvious while the ones that will be the standard tomorrow are impossible to imagine. If we take transportation as an example there is nothing surprising about cars, planes, trains, buses, and boats. Yet in the future, we may have entirely different methods of transportation. As autonomous drivers start to come to the fore we may retire the traditional four-wheel car completely. When we look back in time there are many examples of transportation methods that were introduced but never really took off. Consider the world we would live in if they had.
The transit elevated bus
To find some of these ideas we don’t have to go back too far in time. The Transit Elevated Bus or TEB caused a lot of excitement in 2016. A large bus that was developed to ride above traffic. This meant that there the infrastructure it relied on would be easier to build as it essentially needed two rail lines on either side of the road. A single TEB could carry up to 300 passengers and could be used instead of 40 buses. It was set to be revolutionary. Sadly it was far from it. Although it was suggested that the cost of the TEB would be one fifth that of the subway, the finances were not reliable in the end. 32 people connected with the TEB have since been arrested and the only existing model is now rusting away in a scrapyard.
One idea that always occurred to me and I often wondered why it doesn’t exist is the moving sidewalk. In airports around the world, we have travelators that transport people on flat ground at a faster speed than walking. Yet this doesn’t exist in the outside world. The reasons are obvious. There would be weather conditions to consider, and people may want to stop off in many different places making it a possible nuisance.
However, the idea was unveiled at the Chicago World Fair in 1890 and it excited many people. Back then people had a plan for three walkways side by side. One would be normal, without any motorization, one would travel at 4 km/h and one would travel at 8 km/h. This would allow people to move between the different sidewalks if they needed to disembark. It is believed that the idea didn’t take off because there were wealthy businesses involved in other methods of transportation and didn’t like the competition.
Some ideas are natural. When the bicycle was invented it only made sense that entrepreneurs around the world would try and make a one wheel version. While today a unicycle is popular among clowns and hipsters, that is not what I mean. The monowheel was a much larger wheel that the user would sit inside. It used a gyro wheel to ensure stability and there were both pedal and motorized versions developed. Yet today, it no longer exists.
One of the main reasons the monowheel failed was because of something called gerbiling. This is a term used to describe how when the monowheel braked too quickly, it caused the driver to spin rapidly inside the wheel like a gerbil who stops running in a fast-moving wheel.
These three inventions are just a small number of examples of how different the world could be today and could still become. One of the most interesting parts of any movie or show set in the future is to look at how they assume transport will take place. In Futurama, for example, it was assumed people would fly through tubes at lightning speed. While that would be fantastic, right now I would settle for the speedy sidewalks.