Underground Automated Highways
There are many shows, books, movies and cartoons depicting the future and what our transportation systems could potentially evolve into. In the Jetsons, people drive around in little hoover cars to different destinations in sky cities. In the cartoon Futurama, there is an extensive tube network, cars that hoover inches above the ground and spaceships. I’ve noticed most science fiction depicts transportation moving to the skies, but is that actually where we are headed?
Quite the opposite in fact. Experts are proposing to move our highway systems underground. Our extensive highway network takes up a lot of space and is pretty unsightly. Humans are constantly trying to fight and tame nature. Perhaps it’s time to give a little ground back to the trees and wild life. If we move our highways underground, parks and nature reserves could take the place of cement highways.
For an underground network of highways to work, we would need automatically guided vehicles to eliminate the dangerous human driver factor. I’ve written about driverless cars in a previous blog, so the technology is already in development. Many manufacturers already use AGVs for material handling. They use a number of different ways to navigate themselves around the factory. Some people suggest that steel spikes in the middle of the highway for guided vehicles to determine distance and speed.
The implementation of driverless highways doesn’t mean cars will be autonomous all the time. People would still have control of their vehicles when driving outside the highway. However, if they wanted to enter the underground network, they just need to drive up to an entrance and let the car take over. The car would then enter the highway and join a platoon of 8 to 25 cars. When the destination is reached, the car will exit the highway and the driver will have to take control again. This will release the burden of highway traffic, reduce crashes and increase efficiency & speed of highway driving.
Creating a series of underground highways would take some major infrastructure updates. The cost of it will be enormous. Although the technology is already in development, experts predict it will be another 50 to 100 years before this becomes a reality. Cars will have to significantly reduce their emission levels and tunneling technology will have to be improved. However, if the necessary advancements are made, long road trips will be a lot more relaxing.