The “E” in STEAM Education: Engineering the next wave of transportation
Globally engineers are coming up with innovative solutions to some of urbanization’s most difficult challenges.
The ballooning population in bustling metropolitan cities has become an almost inescapable fact, and there’s no denying that urbanization poses one of the biggest challenges in this century—how to ensure a manageable and sustainable future for major cities.
Transportation is one–if not the most–crucial factor in this endeavor, especially because it bridges gaps and connects people to economic opportunities, health services, and better lifestyle, among other things necessary for day to day living. Typically also, transportation has had a negative impact on cities’ green footprint, creating pollution, loss of public space, traffic jams, rising costs, and related problems.
And while monstrous traffic jams and dilapidated road infrastructure have plagued some of the most populous cities in the world, this does not necessarily mean that we should just junk our city-living dreams altogether and escape the urban sprawl. In fact, the road before us is looking smoother as new technologies are paving the way for much needed improvements in transportation.
The future of transportation
Today, we are seeing innovations in transportation that are starting to alleviate challenges. The most common of these are real-time traffic and navigation mobile applications that allow you to beat traffic, share road and traffic information with other commuters, and guide you to navigate a city unfamiliar to you, like Waze, Google Maps, and inRoute, among others. Ride sharing, car sharing and car-pooling apps have also helped reduce the impact of cars by reducing the number of private cars on the road and associated carbon footprint, and related issues like traffic.
Sensors in roads, signs and other spots in the city can collect enormous amounts of data to provide information that can be used for people to plan and manage their trips; for example, a network of sensors can tell passengers when their next bus is coming. Innovations in city traffic control will see smart traffic signals that aim to ease traffic jams by adjusting the length and frequency of traffic signals. Energy consumption can also be saved by dimming streetlights when no one is around.
Engineers are also working on commercial self-driving or autonomous vehicles that will be launched in the market in the next few years which, once perfected, will help minimize road accidents and increase safety of drivers and passengers. Research suggests autonomous vehicles – if implemented thoughtfully – could reduce the number of kilometers public transit vehicles travel by as much as 90%. And let’s face it, no one likes driving in traffic, so self-driving cars also offer more relaxation time while in on the road.
New types of high-speed trains, turbo-ferries, and commercial airplanes made of composite materials and hybrid power supplies are reducing green impact while making transportation faster, cheaper, and more available to people. Some of us are even driving cars or commuting in buses that are powered by hydrogen or biofuels, which are more-friendly to the environment.
Engineers working on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, promise to cover hundreds of miles in less than an hour. Dubai has agreed on a deal to use the near-supersonic Hyperloop transport link, to cut the travel time from the City to its neighboring state, Abu Dhabi. At a staggering speed of 500 to 750 miles per hour, the journey will take a mere 12 minutes using the Hyperloop, compared to a current time of almost two hours!
Technology and engineering combined are delivering a transport revolution in the coming years that will help alleviate many of our current challenges. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future STEAM education graduates in engineering, science, technology and related fields will even come up with teleportation, the ultimate travel modality! Now imagine that 😉