150 years ago, the world was one of wagon trails and rudimentary roads. Cities were far smaller than they are now, their roads little more than cobblestone streets. Horses were the apex of transportation, though giant new machines set on metal rails were rising from the depths of industry. Most people in that era had never even heard of a locomotive though, let alone seen one. Trains were going to become the great new mode of transportation, and they were...until they were displaced by the automobile. The automobile gave people something trains were unable to do โ€” complete power over when and how they got to a destination, as well as complete freedom of movement. Trains were restricted by rails, by cost, by their "publicness." The automobile offered privacy as well as ownership.

This is why cars remain so popular over 100 years after they first arrived, and why no new mode of transportation has unseated them as humanity's premier transit option. Every new idea of transport fails to match the automobile's perfect combination of cost, speed, convenience, and privacy. Vacuum tunnel trains will require enormous infrastructure costs and hold serious safety risks. We already have roads in place for cars, and they are comparatively cheap to maintain. Public Rapid Transit is still very much a curiosity, and fails to appeal to humanity's love of ownership and privacy (though it does offer more privacy and speed than buses, trains, or planes). Buses and trains are currently held back by speed and cost issues, as well as heavy interference from automobile corporations. The idea of a non-wealthy individual owning an airplane is laughable, and so airplanes will never supplant cars. It is these concerns, as well as interference from automotive and energy consortiums, which keep many projects on the drawing board.

We will (yes, I know this goes against George's anti-"will" sentiment, but c'est la vie) eventually advance beyond the Age of Car. But I believe this will not happen until after the war; when most roads, highways, and cities have been obliterated by the conflict. At that time, the costs of rebuilding the old infrastructure will be just as troublesome as building a new one. Automotive and energy companies will have been destroyed by the war as well, eliminating their interference.

Advertisement

Humanity will finally, truly invest in alternative modes of transport. Vast resources will be utilized to make teleporation of people a reality. In the meantime, vacuum tunnel trains, hypersonic jets, Public Rapid Transit, and high-speed rail will become ubiquitous. The rails and tubes will be elevated to minimize the impact on the environment, and room-temperature superconductors (or superconductors cooled by cheap liquid nitrogen) will keep costs low. The Age of Maglev will be here.

Advertisement

While Earth basks in world travel times defined by hours instead of days, travel to space will become far easier. Space elevators, held together by the successors of carbon nanotubes, will shoot people into space as fast as a rocket can, for a fraction of the cost (after initial construction costs) and far more safely. The elevators will be built by swarms of construction robots while giant stabilizer robots keep the structures stable in high winds and inclement weather. Once completed, the elevators will send material and people into orbit for the construction and settlement of Solar exploration spacecraft, space stations, and orbital cities. While some materials will come from Earth, recycled space junk will make up most. Imagine giant autonomous barges sucking up space junk, melting it down, and creating new beams, plates, and other material all in one giant machine.

But all of this โ€” vacuum tunnels, space elevators, even spaceships themselves โ€” is nothing compared to the holy grail of travel...teleportation. I'm not even going to try to be optimistic here. Human teleportation is centuries away, if not millennia. But it will happen, eventually. And when it does, the last remnants of "old travel" will be swept away. The Solar System will become our oyster. We could build relays all over the system that double as observation decks (I was going to say observation lounges, but the opportunity was too perfect to pass up). Imagine teleporting from the Earth halfway to the Moon. You stargaze in every direction as the teleportation array recharges, then you teleport to the Moon. You spend the weekend at Tranquility Lake before teleporting off to Mars for your real vacation at the Olympus Mons Ski Resort.

Advertisement

But I'm getting ahead of myself again...