Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ET3: Predictions and Thoughts

This video is suspiciously under-produced, but informative.

I'll try to stay calm–


Okay, that failed. But anyway, on to the topic at hand.

If you have not heard about ET3, it's purpose is to do what the Transcontinental Railroad did for 19th century America but on a much faster and bigger scale. ET3 uses vacuum and maglev technologies to propel canisters of people or cargo along a tube at a maximum speed of thousands of miles per hour (!!!) that could possibly be on a global scale.

Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Not being restricted by location is an amazing and mind-boggling concept to think about, not to mention possibly a scary one.

I went to their website and scanned ET3's FAQ. The technology and economics seem to be in place for a system like this which reassures me, but there's always doubt. One of my first doubts is in security and, along with that, safety. The thing about security breaches in airports, buses, trains, etc. is that they're self contained. That is, by destroying a plane, bus or airport, you don't damage the entire system, but rather just the bus, plane, or airport itself (The ability to destroy other objects or hurt other outside people using a method of transportation should be noted as well, but terrorism usually only hurts the ones directly involved with the terrorist act). This is nice because while minimizing human causalities it is also possible to study the events that led to this damage and take steps to minimize these attacks or failures in the future.

The risk of mechanical failure is reportedly at a very low minimum. The fact that it's computer-controlled and that it runs on magnets and a vacuum supports this as well as emergency procedures (both on the computer and user end) that could prevent any major disasters. However, if a major disaster were to occur, it could affect the entire system since it it is one global tube. But what I personally am most worried about is the increased risk of terrorism. While traveling quickly to anywhere in the world is a luxury to non-malicious people, it is also a huge luxury to the ones intending to cause damage. If the ET3 were to act like a subway with minimum security restrictions (which is most likely not going to happen), this would cause quite a bit of nervousness for the average passenger. So with the ET3 system, I hope (as much as the utopian view of the future discourages it) that ET3 terminal will act like airports, doing the standard TSA procedure for global travel. Terrorists could not only cause harm to people inside the canister, but people inside the ET3 terminals as well.

Speaking of terminals, it might be a good idea to add ET3 terminals to airports. Of course, this is where the airline companies will become furious (if they weren't mad enough already) and lobby to terminate the ET3 program. It's interesting to think that one day the rate of ET3 adoption will be so large that many large airports could be converted into ET3 terminals. The space required for an ET3 terminal, however, is much smaller than an airport. Perhaps the ET3 and airplane world could live together, but only time will tell.

My other doubt is the "too good to be true" doubt.

Being able to travel the world in the two hour range sounds like science fiction to me. The ability to avoid costly forms of transportation (quick side note: it is believed the costs of the ET3 system might be so low that advertising could pay for your trip!) that are taxing on the environment and that are much more dangerous than what the ET3 system advertises sounds like fantasy in my mind; a part of a distant future utopia. So my concern is that this will stay a mockup for far longer than promised. Honestly, if I hadn't heard about ET3 and was asked to predict when we'd have these modes of transportation available to the general public I would've said a minimum of forty years.

All of this being said, even though this project seems a little questionable and far-fetched for my brain to comprehend, I truly hope it gets implemented, especially in the time frame it sets (a global network in 20 years). This system would have an unfathomable effect on our global economy and the way ordinary people interact with others around the globe.

To close this, it's interesting to ask the question of what will happen to other forms of mass transportation if the ET3 system comes to be globally accepted. I personally believe that planes will mostly only be used by cargo companies (who absolutely need the space that the ET3 can't provide), the rich, for which planes provide obvious confort and privacy over the constricted capsules of the ET3, and by individuals. I would guess that most airline revenue comes from passenger travel so it's safe to say most airlines would go out of business. The only passenger airline travel that would be useful in a ET3 world would be for travel to places where an ET3 cannot reach (e.g. Islands). However, there is a possibility that countries could make smaller continental lines that could connect to the global system much like subway lines do today. I also believe that trains (like Amtrak, not subway systems) would get the axe as well as they are meant for traveling the distances that, with a car, are just not viable. They would probably be used as "luxury" or novelty ways to get to somewhere. Though looking at the rail industry now, it already seems to be becoming just that. Cars wouldn't go anywhere because of the need for local travel although their use would, hopefully, be greatly diminished. For transporting large/medium loads over semi-far distances, however, trucks will mostly likely have to remain in operation.  Because of this, it is still necessary to perfect clean car/truck technologies. Cargo shipping via boat would probably be diminished as well but cruises will not be going away for obvious reasons.

The future is looking good. Oh, and I also hope those ET3 canisters have hi-speed Wi-Fi.

 - Aidan

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