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Flying cars? Electric jets? Five things you need to know about the future of transport

Posted on Jun 26, 2021

From 2030, new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned in Britain – a sure sign that we’re on the threshold of a transport revolution. But what exactly will this revolution look like? With estimates that the market for autonomous vehicles could be worth almost £42bn in just over a decade, the future of transport looks to be anything but boring. Here are five things you need to know …

Driverless cars take to the roads
While fully autonomous vehicles (where the driver could, in theory, watch a film while the vehicle takes the controls) are still a way off, the first driverless cars – with automated lane-keeping systems that allow drivers to safely take their hands off the wheel – could be on Britain’s roads this year. In Japan, Toyota is building its own smart city, which will function in part as a giant testing facility for autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, in the US, Waymo – which grew out of Google’s self-driving car project – is trialling driverless “robotaxi” services for the public in parts of Phoenix. The road to the driverless future may still be a little bumpy, but it is showing signs of smoothing out.

Electric scooters get the green light?
To some, high-speed electric scooters are an annoyance on British roads (and pavements) – but there’s a chance these silent gadgets could play a part in our transport future. Despite being legal in most of Europe and much of the US, privately owned e-scooters remain banned on UK roads, pavements and footpaths. But trials for rental e-scooters, aimed at assessing whether hire schemes should be rolled out permanently and whether or not private machines should be legalised, have been underway in cities across England over the past year – meaning that there’s a possibility we could all be silently zipping around soon.

E-scooters are undergoing trials in UK cities and could be legal here soon. Photograph: Ivan Pantic/Getty Images

Smart meters will help electric cars charge ahead
With petrol and diesel vehicles being phased out, electric cars are widely seen as the greener, cleaner answer – but they’ll need a little help along the way. Electric cars hold a huge amount of power, but with increasing electricity demand we’ll need smart meters to make our energy infrastructure more stable and fit for the future. The technology is progressing quickly and soon your car could send electricity back to the grid at peak times, helping Britain cope with surges in demand that can lead to the use of fossil fuels. This will all be done with the help of smart meters – which enable technologies, such as EV chargers, to “talk” to the power grid, by telling them when it’s cheap (and green) to top up. So even when millions of electric cars are on the road, the grid will be able to cope without having to rely on polluting coal power – even if everyone plugs in to charge at the end of the day.

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Planes go green
Could electric planes soar from London to Paris with zero emissions – with ticket prices below what we currently pay? That’s the idea behind Wright Electric, a pioneering green transport company that has partnered with Easyjet. Wright’s ambitious plan is to use electric propulsion and swappable battery packs to power the Wright 1, which could carry up to 186 passengers on journeys of up to 800 miles. Rivals such as MagniX are focusing on smaller planes and researching technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells. After a century where planes have been among the most polluting technologies out there, we could be on the verge of a new era where they soar silently through our skies powered by renewable electricity.

Flying cars become a reality?
Driverless cars are one thing, but flying cars? Yes, it seems the science fiction transport staple could finally become a reality. Companies around the world are working on innovations in the field, from personal jet packs to drone taxi services. Some forecasts suggest that the market for flying cars could be worth as much as £1tn by 2040 – with companies such as Boeing dabbling in the technology along with venture capitalists including Google’s co-founder Larry Page. In China, flying taxis made by eHang have already completed demonstration flights.

Join the energy revolution and contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter. For more information visit smartenergygb.org

This article was paid for by Smart Energy GB – the not-for-profit, government-backed campaign helping everyone in Britain to understand the importance of smart meters and their benefits to people and the environment.