Three brand new transport solutions developed by the little guys

We look beyond self-driving cars at three hot transport solutions being developed by startups

Transportation has transformed massively in the past few centuries. From the invention of the steam train in the 1800s to the rise of aircraft in the 1900s, transport has constantly evolved with the times.

And there’s no denying the fact that the world is undergoing a new transport revolution, led by connected technology. By the 2020s, it’s generally thought that autonomous vehicles will enter the mainstream. According to research published by IHS Automotive in 2016, there could be as many as 21 million self-driving vehicles on the world’s roads by 2035.

Of course, driverless vehicles aren’t the only innovation set to pioneer transport over the coming decades. Developed by Tesla and SpaceX, hyperloop technology will also change the game. It’s a proposed mode of transportation that sees a pod travel through a sealed tube - free of air resistance and friction - at hundreds of miles per hour.

Yet if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that big corporations aren’t the only pioneers here. Right around the globe, there are some exciting, intelligent startups working on innovative technologies capable of revolutionising the way we travel. Here are a few of them.

Hyperloop: London to Manchester in 15 minutes

Hyperloop could change travel completely, and rLoop is one of the rising startups in this area. It’s a non-profit, open source participant of the prestigious SpaceX Hyperloop with a mission to democratise hyperloop through collective design. The company currently has more than 100 members from over 14 countries, and is using electronic propulsion to develop the hyperloop pod.

This technology uses spinning magnets at various RPM to create an opposing magnetic field in a conductive substrate, lifting the pod while it is still stationary. In January 2017, rLoop’s hard work paid off when it was awarded with the Innovation Award by Elon Musk at SpaceX.

Ilyas Vali, project manager at rLoop, says hyperloop is the way forward for the world of transport. He also explains how his company is using collaborative design and development to accelerate the development of this technology. “Imagine travelling from London to Manchester in 15 minutes. You could live, work, and visit anywhere because travel time exponentially decreases,” he says.

“This is the vision of the Hyperloop, a new mode of transport being designed and tested by rLoop engineers from all around the world. It’s a conceptual, supersonic transportation system consisting of passenger and cargo ‘pods’ propelled at up to 760 mph in a low pressure tube, using sustainable, cost-efficient energy.”

“At rLoop, there are very low barriers to smaller players starting-up, coalescing, and getting involved with new challenges. Embracing online open-source design allows rapid innovation. Collaborators with bright ideas can be found and harnessed. We’re working on pods with active levitation (spinning magnets that create an opposing magnetic field in a conductive substrate), lifting the pod whilst still stationary – and we’re unique in making this a reality.”

Electric vehicles: Up to 248 miles on a single charge

Based in the Netherlands, Bolt Mobility is another exciting transport technology startup. Launched in 2014 by engineer Marijn Flipse and serial entrepreneur Bart Jacobsz Rosier, the company has a vision to disrupt the global scooter market and accelerate the transition towards sustainable energy and transport.

With Bolt’s AppScooter, Flipse and Jacobsz Rosier set out to create a safe, scalable and environmentally friendly alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles. Still in the development phase, it’ll be a fully-electric vehicle capable of travelling up to 248 miles on a single charge. The scooter will also be able to run apps that can be controlled without taking your hands of the steering bar.

Bart Jacobsz Rosier, CEO of Bolt, explains how his company wants to offer consumers a viable electric vehicle that can function within busy urban environments. “At Bolt we’re dedicated to solving the problems caused by fossil fuelled transport. Environmentally, we can’t put off dealing with the pollution caused by petrol vehicles any longer, and recent advancements in technology have brought us into an era where fossil fuels are no longer required,” he says.

“Electric cars are wonderful and we truly believe that self-driving cars will have a huge impact on society. However, cars transport only one person most of the time, while they’re built for five or more. Neither electric, nor self-driving cars will solve congestion, in every research scenario we’ve found they actually increase congestion.

“With the ever growing (mega)cities in the world, traffic congestion is on its way to become one of the biggest problems. We believe scooters and smaller electric vehicles will play an important role in alleviating congestion in these cities. However, current petrol scooters are way more polluting than cars and can be up to 2,700 times more polluting than a small delivery van. By introducing our fully electric AppScooter, we’ve created the first commercially viable direct competitor to petrol models.”

Parking: An app that solves over 100 ‘single yellow line’ rule types

Finding a parking space in a busy town or city can be a difficult task, but British startup AppyParking is looking to solve this frustrating problem. The company provides free information on parking restrictions and the nearest and cheapest parking spots using IoT and big data to predict parking trends. It was founded by Dan Hubert after he struggled to park near the Royal Albert Hall and realised that the convoluted parking system in the UK was costing the average driver a lot of money in unnecessary fines.

The tracking software monitors when you park and what time you leave, and it automatically debits the cash from your account. Founded in 2013, AppyParking is currently available across the UK in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Bournemouth, Sandwell, Coventry and Cambridge

Dan Hubert, CEO and cofounder of AppyParking, says: “When you think of the future of transport, you would be forgiven for only thinking of driverless cars and the competition between the automotive giants that has recently been dominating the press. While the concept of driverless cars is impressive, these large companies are guilty of getting caught up in the big ideas and forgetting that smaller, more achievable steps need to be taken first. Take for example the humble ‘single yellow line’.

“There’s one borough in North London where this simplest piece of yellow paint has over 100 rule types depending on the time of day. This is enough of a minefield for a road wise human, never mind a robot on wheels. Startups and smaller companies, such as AppyParking, are looking at the near future and working to improve real issues that affect drivers now.

“Using sensors and big data, we can track parking spaces in cities across the UK, and have recently launched our One Click Parking system in Westminster which will remove the hassle of working out who and how they pay, and guessing how long they will be there for. When the driver is finished, they can simply pull out of the bay and the parking session ends immediately, only charging for the minutes stayed. It’s this type of grass roots technology that startups are creating which will drive forward transport technology.”

Transport plays a huge part in the world, and it’s clear that tech giants such as Google and Tesla aren’t the only companies looking to transform the area. There are some great startups working on innovative technologies, and there’s no doubt that we’ll see even more pop up over the next few years.

This story, "Three brand new transport solutions developed by the little guys" was originally published by IDG Connect.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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