Self-driving trucks will be rolling your way in the near future. An autonomous truck completed a 2,400-mile test run from Los Angeles, California to Jacksonville, Florida without a human driver this month, marking a milestone in the progress of self-driven transportation. The company that ran the truck, Embark, already has five vehicles and plans to acquire another 40 for further testing this year. By 2028, between 500,000 and 1,500,000 self-driving trucks will be on the road, Uber projects.
Technologies such as these have the potential to transform society in more radical ways than might be immediately obvious. For instance, if you think Amazon overnight shipments are fast now, imagine what the logistics industry will look like when packing, shipping and unloading are all handled by robots and self-driven vehicles. Here’s a look at three other cutting-edge technologies that are shaping the future of society in fundamental ways.
Self-driving vehicles aren’t the only transportation revolution looming on the horizon. The Trump administration’s new infrastructure proposal includes provisions for private financing for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project, which envisions trains that travel as fast as jets.
A Hyperloop system uses a vacuum-sealed tube to minimize friction and air resistance, removing two of the barriers to high-speed train travel. A specially-designed pod big enough for passengers or freight floats on a thin layer of air less than an inch thick, allowing speeds of over 700 miles an hour.
A Hyperloop ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles could take as little as 35 minutes, faster than current plane travel time.
Cities around the country are already pursuing Hyperloop projects. Hyperloop One, backed by Virgin, is in the final stages of submitting a proposal for a Hyperloop called Midwest Connect that will allow passengers to travel a route between Chicago, Columbus, and Pittsburgh within a half hour.
Other routes under consideration would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, Denver and Cheyenne, Dallas and Laredo, and Miami and Orlando.
Computer and smartphone chips are getting faster as well. One impetus accelerating chip processing speed is the advent of 5G.
Both Verizon and AT&T have announced plans to roll out 5G networks in 2018, delivering download speed of 4 gigabits per second, fast enough to download a 100 GB 4K movie in less than four minutes.
Artificial intelligence, which requires enormous computing power, is also motivating manufacturers to speed up chip processing speed.
To bring these vital new technologies to consumers, smartphone component manufacturers are developing some of the fastest mobile processors that consumers have ever seen.
For instance, the latest generation of Snapdragon mobile processors is capable of supporting today’s fastest wireless connections as well as empowering on-device artificial intelligence that doesn’t require support from remote cloud resources.
With fast-charging battery capability and AI-optimized battery lifespan, the latest Snapdragon mobile processors support AI-dependent applications such as biometric facial recognition, automatic photo optimization, and immersive virtual reality experiences.
In conjunction with 5G networks, advanced CPUs will also support streaming 4K and virtual reality broadcasts.
While high-speed transportation and advanced CPUs are making society faster, exoskeletons are making us stronger.
In January, the FDA gave Japanese company Cyberdyne approval to manufacture Hybrid Assisted Limb (HAL), a lower-body exoskeleton.
Where previous exoskeletons have supported movements initiated by physical actions, HAL can actually sense bioelectric signals from the wearer’s brain in order to initiate movements.
HAL is designed for medical use, but a non-medical version is also pending approval.
Non-medical exoskeletons can allow humans to lift more and move faster. For instance, warehouse workers can use exoskeletons to safely lift objects that would be otherwise too heavy to move.
Chinese military manufacturer Norinco has designed a military exoskeleton which allows soldiers to carry five pounds of equipment for every pound of effort exerted so that lifting 50 pounds would feel like lifting 10 pounds.
High-speed transportation, advanced CPUs, and exoskeletons are shaping the future by accelerating how fast we travel, speeding up our computers and smartphones, and allowing us to lift more and move faster.
Technologies like these are both revolutionary in their own right and transformative of society as a whole.
As technologies such as this continue to advance, they will become increasingly interwoven in our daily lives, turning science fiction into everyday reality and changing the way we live in ways we have yet to imagine.