Book Review: Future Tech: Innovations in Transportation

by Paul Schilperoord, 192 pages, August 2006 price: $19.77

This book  is the best collection of the latest concepts, development projects and marketable systems known to this reviewer.  Its focus is mostly European and Japanese which is probably due mostly to the author's residence (the Netherlands) but there is some content that includes items from America and other nations as well. Five major topics  are included:

  • Road Transport, pp 1-51

  • Air Travel and Aerospace, pp 52-89

  • Personal Mobility, pp 90- 119

  • Public Transport, pp 120-163

  • Water Transport, pp 164-186

In each section, several major issues (e.g. fuel cells, flying cars, electric drives, magnetic levitation, air lubrication) are examined and then profiles giving specific examples in each category are briefly described. For example, under Road Transport, steam power is discussed, followed by a description of the Turbosteamer concept. Most of the contents of the Road Transport section are new to this reviewer as they are mostly being undertaken in the EU. Most of the concepts presented are intended to assist the movement of people. Some will also accommodate goods and heavy cargo transport as well.

The section on Air Travel and Aerospace includes a wide variety of flying machines, large and small, ranging from the massive A300-800 airplane to the Jetpod T-100 Flying Taxi and the Skyblazer Roadable Aircraft. The Personal Mobility section includes a very interesting array of machines for individuals that offer many solutions for easing urban travel in congested settings. Examples include several scooters, motorcycles and narrow three-wheel vehicles.

The coverage in the Public Transport section is very broad, ranging from high speed bullet-type trains to dualmode (rail and highway capable) trucks to Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) concepts. There is some overlap with the content of the Innovative Transportation Technologies website in this section as it includes the Blade Runner, ULTra, SkyTran and Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) concepts. Both advanced bus and train systems are included in this section.

The last section includes several waterborne concepts which have significant application potential in many parts of the world. Several stimulating ship concepts are presented (e.g. SkySails, Wave Piercing Catamarans, the Splash Hydroplaning Car) that certainly offer some significant advantages over land- or air-based systems in many locations around the world.

I believe that most of the systems presented in this book will be new to non-EU readers and that the stimulation potential of the materials included is likely to be quite high. Chinese and Korean companies should pay particular attention to this book. The author has done an excellent job with this book and one can only hope that he will do a second edition or a second book that includes even more of the bright ideas from around the world. Many inventors and small companies are trying hard  to overcome the dominant conventional  auto-bus-rail industries that currently stifle innovation in this field. The status quo is strongly entrenched almost everywhere. But as concerns about the high levels of transport petroleum energy used and associated pollution generated by conventional air, auto and transit modes rises, innovation is becoming ever more urgent.

Many of the systems included in this book are evolutionary in nature, building on the vast experience we have with the  technologies in use today. Some are quite revolutionary and will have much higher hurdles to overcome to reach the marketplace.  The public and their elected officials need to realize that there are some very promising alternatives being worked on vigorously around the world today This book offers everyone a quick update that will help with this major educational task. Auto companies, currently suffering from a worldwide excess of production capacity, some facing bankruptcy and massive layoffs of employees could also benefit from many of the ideas contained in this book - let's urge them develop some new transport products that can offer a more sustainable and livable future for us all.

Jerry Schneider
Salem, Oregon, USA

Last modified: September 04, 2006