In the world of cutting-edge logistics solutions, two companies — The Boring Company and Cargo Sous Terrain — are pioneering the future.
The problem with logistics and transportation in the 21st Century boils down to overpopulation and excessive congestion. The infrastructure solutions of the 20th Century are becoming more and more outdated. After all, roads and superhighways can only take you so far.
The answer is that public transportation mustn't be locked into the infrastructure of current highways. This idea often evokes images of flying cars—but there's another, more practical way.
Keep reading to learn more.
Tunneling the Future
To tackle the problem of excessive traffic, Cargo Sous Terrain (CST) and The Boring Company (TBC) are developing an innovative workaround. Actually, the basic idea is rather antiquated one—take the transportation of goods and people underground.
It began in the 19th century when the London Underground railway opened in 1863. This was the first of the world's subway systems. Its solution to metropolitan congestion involved constructing transportation tunnels beneath the city.
TBC and CST plan to update this concept for the 21st Century. Cargo Sous Terrain intends to link Switzerland's main cities with underground transportation tunnels.
The Boring Company is one of the many brainchildren of the celebrated technologist and space pioneer Elon Musk. Unlike Cargo Sous Terrain, it intends to create underground people movers. It hopes to do this using innovative technology to reduce the time and costs of tunnel construction.
CST: Switzerland's Underground Freight Transport
Let's first look at the Cargo Sous Terrain approach to the underground system of transportation.
The CST future plans are the most ambitious of the two concepts. The idea is to thread the entire country with a subterranean logistics network that will span some 490 kilometres, from Geneva to St Gallen. And many side branches will radiate from this main trunk, including lines to Basel and Lucerne.
The purpose of the CST is to free up aboveground roads and railways in Switzerland from the congestion of freight transportation. Instead, small, autonomous electric vehicles will transport containerized goods to distribution hubs.
The tunnels are to be built about 50 metres beneath the earth and will be about 6 metres across. Two tracks will enable traffic flow in either direction. The autonomous vehicles are envisioned to unload their cargo on their own.
Construction on the project begins in 2031, with the completion of the entire network slated for 2045. If the CST is successful, it will lessen congestion in the densely populated Swiss Republic. At the same time, it will revolutionize the transportation of goods and cargo.
TBC: Solving Traffic in the US
So, what is The Boring Company all about?
Well, it's anything but boring—in fact, it's pioneering some of the most fascinating infrastructure solutions in the world. Whereas Cargo Sous Terrain is strictly about moving freight, The Boring Company intends to transform the world of public transportation.
The idea is to make roads and transportation "three-dimensional." Musk has his eyes set on the notorious traffic nightmare that is Los Angeles. Add to that the I-95 corridor in the Northeast, between New York City and Washington, D.C.
But the concept can be applied to congested cities worldwide. This includes our own heavily congested cities, like Vancouver and Toronto. In many ways, The Boring Company is attempting to reinvent the wheel. Underground tunnels and subways have been a part of human infrastructure engineering for a long time. There's nothing particularly cutting edge about them.
But The Boring Company hopes to change the way these structures are built. The key is innovation. With new methods of tunneling, the company intends to lower costs and reduce construction times.
And who knows what the future holds? If The Boring Company has its way, the freeways of the future may plunge beneath the earth, and inner-city congestion may be a thing of the past.
Tunnels vs Flying Cars
So why all this focus on underground transportation systems?
After all, it wasn't so long ago that we were promised a magnificent future with flying cars. Who can forget, in the film Blade Runner, the image of Harrison Ford soaring in his police "spinner" above the towers of an overpopulated Los Angeles? Or the airborne DeLorean from Back to the Future Part II?
Unfortunately, our dreams of the future don't always comport with reality. The mechanics of flying vehicles are much more difficult than first thought.
Then there are the safety and infrastructure issues. Imagine flying cars crashing into skyscrapers or falling out of the sky. And where will they land? The skies could become as congested as the freeways are now, with even worse consequences.
That's why The Boring Company and Cargo Sous Terrain have opted to seek the third dimension of transportation in the ground beneath us.
Drones Taking Over the Sky
Still, we shouldn't count out the aerial dimension yet.
The spectacular evolution of drone technology has opened up extraordinary new possibilities. This includes the deployment of drones for logistics purposes, including final-mile package delivery.
Once again, the Swiss are pioneering the development of this technology. They're using the Matternet M2 Parcel Delivery Drone to deliver medical payloads to hospitals. Alphabet's Project Wing is also looking to use electric drones to ferry packages for large couriers like FedEx.
And that's the least of what's planned. Companies like Uber, Airbus, and EHang are developing "flying taxis." These are passenger drones based on vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology.
The Future of Transportation
Perhaps cargo and passenger transportation will, in the future, consist of some mixture of all these methods.
Bulk goods and public transportation will occur underground. Wealthier passengers might take autonomous flying taxis and drones to their destinations.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on companies like Cargo Sous Terrain and The Boring Company. They're researching bold and innovative new solutions to the problems of freight transportation and underground travel. And this is good news for our big cities, like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver—where you can expect to spend upwards of 50 hours in traffic.
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