Globally, the average commute is 40 minutes, one-way. But in places like Israel, India, and Hong Kong, this number almost doubles. Not surprisingly, spending so much time traveling to and from work takes a toll on our wellbeing and job satisfaction. Researchers in England even found that adding an additional 20 minutes to our daily commutes has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut.
What would it take to make the ways we commute more comfortable and sustainable than today? At Covestro, we believe innovative materials have the power to brighten the road (and the rails) ahead.
While we can all appreciate the flexibility cars have brought to our cities, the sheer number of vehicles on the road has become a bit mind boggling. In metropolises like New York, the average speed of traffic has dropped to a meager 4.5 miles-per-hour. And in four of the largest Indian cities – where the level of traffic is significantly higher than comparable cities around Asia – total congestion costs were estimated to be as much as $22 billion per year. Additionally, all of the vehicles driving around cities contributes to a hefty amount of our urban air pollution.
So, here’s the question: how do we make each drive to work a more beneficial experience for both the environment and humans?
New innovations are already beginning to convert cars into smarter, more efficient machines. High-tech polymers offer alternatives to metal and glass, making cars lighter and more aerodynamic, and advanced battery packaging solutions provide safer, more efficient electric vehicles. And the latest concoction of futuristic technologies has given us an exciting new vision for mobility: self-driving cars.
Let’s imagine we get there: total autonomy. Steering wheels have been banned; our cars are better drivers than we ever were. Seamlessly integrated LiDAR sensors, radars, and cameras help our cars coordinate with one another in an elegant ballet, whizzing and weaving past one another with inches to spare. Meanwhile, expert technology like LED matrix displays communicate with pedestrians. Together, these smart features reduce accidents and improve traffic flow. Best of all, more efficient routing means less pollution. Our roads are safer, more sustainable, and more efficient places than they’ve ever been.
The missing steering wheel also means the mobility experience is almost entirely delivered by the interior. The exterior personality of a glossy roadster or a strapping SUV fades in importance as the cabin supplies new commuter benefits. We can daydream while gazing out a panoramic roof. Or rotate our seats and flip on some ambient lighting for a shared lounge experience and quality socializing with fellow passengers. We may also peer into huge, richly animated screens built right into our dashboards, possibly increasing the amount of video-calls that keep us connected with friends and family as we travel.
Who knows, with all of these futuristic mobility developments, we might even look forward to our commute!
Although the autonomous vehicle is set to offer relief for many problems plaguing individuals in cities, it’s not enough to manage the huge number of commuters in the future. A driverless car, after all, is still a car, carrying, at best, a few people.
Even as other solutions clamor for the title of the next big mobility solution, public transit still remains the most effective form of shared transport, and with enough investment, it can help our cities cope with a heaving population and reduce their carbon footprint.
Transit needs to be safe and reliable, to be sure, but wouldn’t public transportation appeal to so many more if we made it more sustainable and comfortable?
So, how do we design transit to appeal to humans in our future cities? Let’s imagine…
Once considered the least glamorous of public transportation services, buses of the future are sleek, smooth, and sustainable. Rumbling engines have been swapped with high-performance batteries and metal and glass exchanged for lightweight polycarbonate for a ride that feels like you’re floating on a cloud. Most importantly, buses are on demand and there when you need them – just in time, not just in case.
The cramped cabins of the metro have also received a futuristic upgrade that helps reduce commuters’ stress. High-tech insulation absorbs rail squeal, and smart filters diffuse light, creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Moreover, the clean polycarbonate interior is spacious and designed in a way that appeals to passengers’ evolutionary desire to see but not be seen. The result? A commute that might just become the most relaxing part of your day.