The future of travel?

How many times have you heard people wish we had high-speed trains? Like those in Europe. Imagine Buffalo to the Big Apple in less than two hours. At 200 mph. That is not far off the average speed of the fastest Japanese and European trains.

Imagine zipping between cities: Utica to NYC in an hour and a quarter. Jamestown to Albany in less than 2 hours. Syracuse to Boston in an hour and a half.

Well, stop imagining. Such high-speed rail systems are simply too expensive to build today. For a population as spread out as ours, that is. They ain’t gonna happen here.

This is a pity. Because flying around the region is impractical. In fact it is a stupid way of travelling.

I just checked Travelocity for flights from Buffalo to Albany. Now, that should be simple, eh? It will take you 6 hours. Plus the hour and a half for check-in, thank you Osama bin Laden. Plus 30 minutes waiting for your bag. Figure 8 hours.

And three planes! You fly first to Boston, waving at Albany along the way. After an hour in Boston you fly to…to Albany? Are you nuts? You fly to Washington, D.C. After another 45 minutes you get to fly to Albany.

Air travel in America was supposed to work out differently than this. Back to the drawing boards. Which happens to be a good move.

On those drawing boards are plans for driverless cars. You have read that some of these cars are already off the drawing boards and zipping around a few roads. Our future is going to feature millions of robot cars. At least that is what some bright guys at Google and elsewhere tell us. They have developed the technology.

Do you feel this will never happen? Because we cannot trust robots to such an extent? Think of that next time you ride an elevator. Or ride a train around an airport. Nobody operates those. Auto-pilots fly most commercial aircraft. Except for take-offs and landings. Robots have in fact done both with planes.

Maybe you feel the technology will triumph. But you believe people will reject robotic cars. After all, we love to drive. Because we get to control things. We won’t want to give it up.

We will. When the benefit is 200 mph while we chug beer and watch football, we will. When the benefit is fewer traffic jams, we will. There will be fewer jams because the cars will communicate with each other. Traffic control systems will re-route cars to avoid slow downs or blockages. I bet their re-routings will not take you to Buffalo, Boston and D.C. along the way either.

Think of it. High-speed travel which will allow you to eat or sleep while you travel. You might play cards or play with your kids while you’re on the road. Or work. Don’t forget work.

And robotic cars will be safer than people-driven cars. They will have to be to get approval from government. And these robots will be smart. They will be programmed to ask what music you want. Or whether we should stop at the next McDonalds. Or should we avoid going past your mother-in-law’s house in case she’s peeping out the window.

Here is another great feature. “Drive yourself down to the carwash. And be back here by five.”

And imagine how effective this will be: You are trying to snooze as your robot car swooshes you to Aunt Mary’s for Thanksgiving. Your kids are raising hell. You press a button. A horrific voice thunders. It rattles the windows. “If I have to stop this car to come back there and deal with you guys…!”

From in Morgan.

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