Thinking about how we might be travelling in 10, 20 or even 500 years is enough to make the mind melt. Will we still even be using planes (perhaps we'll be flying our cars from Seattle to Paris)? What if in 100 years we could teleport straight to our next holiday destination?
While we fantasise, engineers and designers all over the world are testing out what could become the vehicles of the future. Witness the just-launched prototype of the 'Superbus', described by CNN as the love child of a DeLorean and a stretch limo. You get the feeling some of them have been dreamt up while sitting in traffic jams, but these vehicles are often designed to be fast, fuel-efficient and, well, out-of-this-world.
Granted, some of them may never make it to our roads, skies or 'teleportation passageways', but it's fun envisioning what the future may hold.
SkyTran: a pod of your own
Currently being developed at NASA, SkyTran, which looks a bit like an upside down version of the monorail at Disney World, could be the future of city transportation. Said to move at 240km (150 miles) per hour and using only the amount of energy it takes to power two hairdryers, SkyTran carries passengers in personalised 'pods' using magnetic levitation tracks and is designed to have the passenger capacity of a 6-lane highway.
What we've been waiting for: flying cars
If you’ve seen Back to the Future, you’ve probably wanted your own flying car ever since. Well, we seem to be getting there. Chinese design students Pan Jiazhi, Zhu Wenxi and Lai Zexin have designed a super sleek solar-powered flying car they've called the 'YEE' that doesn't need a runway to take-off. But if you don't want to wait for the YEE to become a reality, check out the Transition® Roadable Aircraft, created by US company Terrafugia. If you have about US$200,000 to spare - and have always coveted a plane you could park in your driveway - you could own this vehicle soon.
An electric mini-bus that's good in a jam
Catching the bus could be a whole lot cooler if this electric mini-bus was on the road. The Cameo, designed by Martin Pes, revolutionises the concept of a compact bus, carrying 32 passengers but being small and agile enough to get its way out of a traffic jam. Its electric motor and low weight mean not only can it be recharged in seconds while stopping for passengers, it’s also zero-emission.
Plane travel without the eco-guilt?
For travellers who hate the idea of what their air miles are doing to the environment, a solution could be on its way. NASA, with help from Boeing and other manufacturers are developing an ultra-efficient airplane that they hope to have flying commercially by 2025. Looking like something George Lucas may have had a hand in designing, these eco-planes will apparently use a 70% more efficient fuel mixture that will leave you laughing with eco-friendliness (...the mixture is 75% nitrous-oxide).
An eco-taxi that turns into a mini-train
Ever been to a big city like Manhattan and wondered how bad all the taxis are for the environment and traffic jams? Enter the eco-taxi or, as Tanzanian designer Walter Robert has dubbed it, the 'Renault Runner'. Among others things, this zero-emission future 'taxi system' features transparent solar panel windows and a wireless system that allows individual taxis to form a train. Plus, they look like lunar buggies and who doesn't want to get picked up by one of them?
If you want to think about how far we've come already, read Lonely Planet's article: 'Travel then and now - oh how you've changed'.