“To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth’s surface, intersecting with a vertical line the horizontal line which it began by following, is capable of converting its speed into lifting power.”
The story of human transportation design tells itself through the interaction between the opportunities of technological innovation and social conditions. It starts from travelling on foot, the wheel’s invention, vehicles with internal combustion engines, autonomous machines and so on. However, this continuous dialectic can’t be confused with human progress, which is fundamentally the process of self-realization of society’s spiritual aspect. The Spirit as a force driven by desire and conflict becomes human history’s true meaning. Now, we find ourselves with a clash between the old and the new that has been propelling human development towards the third dimension of possibility — imagining the future as an entirely new reality.
1. Virgin Hyperloop One
Hyperloop was a concept envisioned by Elon Musk in 2013, describing it as a cross between “a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table”. The vehicle travels at high speed inside a tube constructed above or below ground. The structure contains a near-vacuum environment allowing the vehicle to travel faster than a plane flight through electromagnetic levitation, making the environmentally friendly system an alternative to the existing transport systems.
2. MAD + HyperloopTT
Hyperloop TT commissioned MAD to conceive a versatile pylon design that acts as structural support for the innovative transport system while adapting to different environments. According to MAD, the elevated infrastructure connects cities and people and brings a renewed connection between people and their city. Raised green walkways along the structure and activation spaces below show how the artificial can merge with nature through self-sustainable systems integrated into this novel dimension of public space.
3. Underwater Floating Tunnels
Norway’s geography is characterized by fjords, an ancient Viking term referring to “where you travel across”, Norwegians’ main desire when they are obliged to go around the water bodies to cross the country in a time-consuming process. The design involves constructing floating concrete tunnels submerged 30 meters underwater and supported by air-filled structures that provide buoyancy. This infrastructure would allow vehicles to travel across the fjords in no time while hidden underwater.
4. G107 Bao’an
With increasing automobile popularity, modern highway systems were developed in the 20th century and have since remained unchanged. Avoid Obvious Architects and Tetra decided to question their role by transforming the 30-kilometre highway G107 and its surrounding area in Bao’an, Shenzhen. The primary strategy involves replacing the old infrastructure with two four-lane enclosed highways that free the ground surface and connect the existing fragmented city. In the end, the multimodal project’s ultimate goal is to make Bao’an a smart and carbon-neutral city by 2045.
5. Smart Highway
Roads, “Why not turn them into a vision of mobility – a symbol of the future?” Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde created the Smart Highway to answer his question. A project that decides to focus on smart infrastructures rather than smart cars by developing a five-feature road design: A glow-in-the-dark road, dynamic temperature paint, interactive light, wind light, and an induction priority lane, turning highways into futuristic and alluring settings, what Roosegaarde calls “techno-poetry”.
6. Hanging City
As buildings grow closer to the sky with the growing population, vertical transportation will become incredibly time-consuming and costly. Square One proposes a mega-city of multiple interconnected towers linked by a second urban sector up in the air, reproducing the city’s ground level relations. The MULTI elevator becomes the means of mobility and connectivity between towers, improving vertical transportation design and making horizontal transportation a possibility.
7. Urban Air Mobility
MVRDV is developing a plan for the future of Urban Air Mobility in a collaborative project. The research considers the use of vertiports, nodes to connect aerial networks with future ground transportation systems. Discretely integrating the system into the urban fabric would complement the city’s existing infrastructure rather than replace it.
8. Spaces on Wheels
The imaginative research project presents a series of tentative scenarios for self-driving cars, highlighting the potential of new technologies beyond transport while reaching a commonplace in daily life. The seven autonomous vehicles take on everyday situations: an office, a café, a mobile healthcare treatment, a farm, space for play, a hotel, and a shop. Their current limitations become opportunities for the technological shift.
9. The Future of Automobility
IDEO visualizes the near future of autonomous ride-sharing vehicles as the basis of the urban experience. Essentially, the concept presents the possibilities of self-driving cars through four scenarios: moving people, moving things, moving spaces and moving together. Here, transportation design becomes flexible and intimate at the same time, while the vehicles integrate into city life.
10. Vision Urbanetic
Mercedes Benz presents a revolutionary mobility concept for the future city functioning entirely through autonomous transportation design. The system relies on a self-driving chassis that switches bodies depending on the required uses, the city’s real-time needs and mobility patterns. Either a ride-sharing vehicle, a cargo or a load floor, the flexibility-based concept makes transport simple, efficient and sustainable, improving urban life quality.
11. Starling Crossing
For Jan Gehl, “If you invite more cars, you get more cars…If you invite people to walk more and use public spaces more, you get more life in the city. You get what you invite.
When technological interest prioritizes vehicles as the future of transport development, Starling Crossing puts people first by updating the antiquated pedestrian crossing design into a high-tech one. The system distinguishes between pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle while its surface reacts dynamically to different situations, altering its configuration in real-time. It adapts to trajectories, activity levels, mobility patterns and environmental conditions in order to prioritize pedestrian movement and safety.
12. Sky Tran
For CEO Jerry Sanders, “The only way to get around traffic is to literally go above it.” The lightweight and compact vehicle carries up to four passengers and travels up to 240 kilometres an hour, suspended from elevated rails using magnetic levitation technology. “Sky Tran uses the same amount of electricity as two hairdryers”, according to Sanders, this added to a low cost and minimal ground footprint infrastructure, it ensures an effective integration in developing cities.
13. Gyroscopic Public Transportation
The Russian based engineering company Dahir Insaat Corporation came up with the concept of elevated vehicles incorporated in existing roads but remaining independent from the nuisance of traffic jams. The self-balancing pods travel over traffic on vertical supports, going up, down, overlapping depending on the city’s context, working as vehicles for public transit, luxurious spaces or emergency vehicles. The system provides a solution to the city’s rising congestion by adding a new road level with lower environmental impact and cost.
14. Renault Float
“The Float” is Yuchen Chai’s vision for the future, a concept that centres on making the car a social place and mobility a connectivity medium and the winning proposal for Renault’s design competition. The two-passenger vehicle can attach to other modules by an exterior magnetic belt and generate connections with other people. Meanwhile, the vehicle floats through magnetic levitation, enabling it to move in any direction without infrastructure.
15. City Airbus
The City Airbus is a remotely piloted passenger drone, a flying taxi. Fast, affordable and environmentally friendly, envisioned as a replacement for public transit and cars. Its flexibility allows it to become a personal vehicle, an ambulance, mobile hospital, limousine, cargo delivery, search and rescue, or assistance in disaster sites. For the City Airbus, “The third dimension increases the geographic accessibility to remote and underserved areas of the city” with the cost close to a taxi ride
16. Manned Cloud
The Manned Cloud reintroduces the airship as a flying hotel, proposed by French designer Jean-Marie Massaud who created it for “Living in the sky, watching the Earth from above. Rediscovering the marvel of travelling, experiencing contemplation…” The return of the Romantic era’s man, emotional and visionary with a deepened appreciation of the world’s beauty and its uncorrupted nature. In collaboration with ONERA, the airship becomes an experimental transportation design, requiring less energy to remain in flight than other air transport systems, “…Exploring the world without a trace”.
17. Passing Cloud
The Passing Cloud is an idea for a transport network of floating clouds created by architect Thiago Barros in 2011, an innovative way to move through a city of changing landscapes without infrastructure. “The journey becomes your destiny”, says Barros, as people can stand on the surface of the spherical balloons moved by the wind, independent from any fixed itinerary.
18. “Earth to Earth” Space Travel
SpaceX transforms long-distance travel between cities into less than an hour journey through sub-orbital flights with the Starship reusable launch system. Spaceports for launch and landing would be found in major cities, offering the possibility to travel distances up to 10.000 kilometres at higher speeds than supersonic airliners.
19. Space Elevator
Obayashi proposes a space elevator system that connects Earth with Space to transport cargo and people across the atmosphere’s limits. A realistic possibility for more significant and permanent human infrastructure projects in space. It enables continuous physical communication with Earth through arrivals and departures, just like any other transport station.
20. High Altitude Operational Concept (HAVOC)
Nasa’s HAVOC is a helium-filled airship vehicle that would float on Venus’ atmosphere. Contrary to its surface, one of the solar system’s hottest environments, the atmospheric conditions are similar to those on Earth. Ultimately, these vehicles would become floating cities, artificial habitats that nod to human development beyond Earth and the possibility of further exploring the solar system besides Mars.