In the zero-carbon cities of the future, commuting to work may take the form of hailing a driverless shuttle through an app which ferries you from your door to the nearest public transport terminal. In fact, autonomous shuttles have been in development in restricted areas for the past few years. So what will it take to make them part of our daily commute?
Delivering online shopping to people’s homes is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when deliveries fail and the journey needs to be repeated. Researchers are now re-thinking home deliveries to see if there is a better way of doing things, with ideas including robot couriers, jointly owned parcel lockers and an ‘Uber’ for parcels.
Across Europe’s cities, the demand for delivery services is increasing. But these deliveries affect urban life as they add to traffic congestion, noise and pollution and many cities are now trying out alternative modes of transport that could help.
How people and deliveries get to their final destination is currently making urban environments harder places to live, and cities need to solve this ‘last mile problem’ by using a combination of ‘carrot and stick’ measures, according to Karen Vancluysen, secretary general of Polis, a network of European cities and regions working on sustainable innovative transport solutions.
When it comes to planes cruising through the air, many of us are used to the idea of them flying on autopilot with little or no input from a human pilot as they travel from one destination to another. Landing a plane under autopilot, known as autoland, is a different matter. While some systems already exist, efforts are underway to improve them to enable safer landings.
An alternative aeroplane wing tip dubbed ‘new raked’ that would make flying more fuel efficient has been awarded one of four €7,000 first prizes at this year’s European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS).
Blending biofuels and kerosene to create greener jet fuel has shown promising results in test flights, but more work needs to be done to ensure biofuels burn cleanly and can be produced in a large-scale, low-cost way, says Dr Chong Cheng Tung, associate professor at the China-UK Low Carbon College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
Self-driving cars are set to bring one of the biggest changes to our global transportation system in decades, but their potential to increase road safety should not be over-emphasised if we want to increase people’s trust in automated vehicles, says Dr Jean-François Bonnefon from the Toulouse School of Economics, France, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. He is a behavioural scientist who studies the ethics of self-driving cars and is speaking at the European Conference on Connected and Automated Driving (EUCAD) in Brussels, Belgium, which runs from 2-3 April 2019.
Semi-autonomous cars are expected to hit the roads in Europe next year with truck convoys following a few years later. But before different brands can share the roads, vehicle manufacturers need to agree on standards for automated functions.
Horizon spoke to virologist Johan Neyts.
Dr Alexey Solodovnikov on why we need a less biased view of the animal kingdom.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.