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Travel of the future

It’s pretty evident technology has set a blistering pace over the last two decades. Imagine the response if someone 20 years ago said, “You’ll be walking around with a computer smaller than a Sony Walkman in your pocket”!

Travel has evolved in much the same way – after all, just 40 years ago, the prospect of travelling from London to Paris at today’s speed and low cost would have been unimaginable.

Technology and travel are very comfortable bedfellows, so what does the near future hold for development of travel?

The Flexicover Team gazes into the crystal ball to find out...

The final frontier

Richard Branson is a travel pioneer and turned his attention to the stars, following a decade of anticipation. Operating out of New Mexico's Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic is soaring higher to offer us space tourism! Initially these will be sub-orbital flights, with a view to eventually offering orbital flights. A seat on board the spaceship costs a cool $250,000 and to fly on Spaceship Two, passengers will undertake full training before embarking on their 2hr flight into space. Despite the mammoth cost, over 600 budding astronauts are already signed up! The hope is that, like air travel, space travel will become a feasible option for more than just the mega-rich. What’s more, it’s even been mooted that this could revolutionise long-haul aviation with the prospect of passengers flying from London to Australia in just a few hours!

Podding along

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) pods may seem like something out of the sci-fi epic Bladerunner, but the technology is here now (albeit on a small scale). London’s Heathrow Airport has a 1.6km-long track where 21 ultra-lightweight, electric, unmanned vehicles ferry passengers from a business car park to Terminal 5. A citywide PRT system was tested in Masdar City in the UAE, an ambitious project to create the world's first carbon neutral city. However, the project has been shelved due to the current high cost. Today, they still have 13 initial podcars running on an 800m track shuttling students between a station and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. Whether a PRT could effectively replace taxis in busy metropolises remains to be seen but with companies such as NASA investing in SkyTran (a 150 mph overhead PRT, using only the amount of energy it takes to power two hairdryers), the sky’s the limit!

Guiding technology

The days of carrying around hefty guidebooks or getting lost and having to stop a stranger in the street are gone, as most smartphones can now offer turn-by-turn directions and storage for hundreds of books. Alternatively, there is the Internet, where a plethora of seasoned travellers or locals post useful information about almost anywhere on the planet. By the end of this year, Google will begin selling Google Glass, their 'augmented reality' glasses which will stream information in real time onto a user’s eyeball and, while there are still question marks about consumer acceptance and usability of such devices, the potential is huge. Just think: to take photos and videos you wouldn’t need to reach in your pocket and can record your experiences more ‘organically’!

Virtual tourism

The advent of the internet and, more recently, the smartphone, has already revolutionised the way we travel but it’s also become easier to virtually experience the essence of a place, designed and constructed from 3D interactive mapping technologies such as Google Earth. Online communities like Second Life are being used to recreate virtual destinations. As technology advances we may even be able to experience long-gone places such as fabled Babylon or even walk with dinosaurs! While it’s unlikely that technology will ever actually replace physical travel, it can bring access to the world ever closer and offer opportunities for those previously unable to experience them first-hand!

Taking the Tube 2.0?

Around Europe and Asia there are a number of high-speed trains that hurtle along the tracks at up to 200mph. In China and Japan they have maglev (magnetic levitation) trains which can reach 300mph. There are even plans for a “Super-Maglev" train between Baltimore and Washington DC that would take just 15 minutes! However, a company in the US are taking the maglev concept to a whole new level and even have a working prototype. Just like something out of Futurama, they’re developing Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) – an airless, frictionless tube that can propel vehicles up to 4,000mph, effectively moving you from Los Angeles to New York in 45 minutes – less time than it takes most people to get through airport security. And safety concerns are allayed as it’s claimed that ETT would only produce 1G of force at top speed, more like a car on a motorway than doing barrel rolls in a fighter jet.

Wherever you decide to travel, and whatever you chose to see, Flexicover are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.