Several science-fiction-like advances in transportation are currently underway. They may revolutionize the way people get around. Among the most exciting are hoverboards, driverless cars, and even fully re-usable rockets that could radically reduce the cost of space launches.
Hoverboards are now a reality. You might even receive one as a present during the holidays. While they may not look exactly like the ones in Back to the Future, actual self-balancing, hands-free scooters are now on the market. Unfortunately, government regulations prohibit you from riding one outside if you live in the United Kingdom , or in New York City.
Driverless cars are another promising technology. Just last week, Google patented a way for driverless cars to communicate with pedestrians, as well as a way for the company’s driverless cars to automatically unlock as their passenger approaches by recognizing the passenger’s Bluetooth device. As if the potential convenience of a computerized personal chauffeur weren’t enough, you may never need to fumble looking for your car keys again.
Hopefully regulatory traffic won’t prevent you from purchasing a driverless car for much longer—right now the government seems to be the only thing preventing driverless cars from hitting the market. Regulators cite safety concerns as their motivation for slowing down the arrival of driverless cars, but these cars are already so safe that the greatest danger of riding in one may be the other cars on the road that still have human drivers.
Market competition is also helping to drive forward spaceflight. Last week a private sector rocketry company called Blue Origin nailed a game-changing spaceflight achievement: fully re-usable rockets. Rockets, not fuel, are the most expensive part of taking off into space. Fully re-usable rockets cut the expense of space launches dramatically—bringing us closer to economical space tourism, which is the goal of Blue Origin as well as its chief market competitor in that realm, Virgin Galactic.
It’s abundantly clear that markets are steering transportation into the future, from hoverboards that take you around the block in style to rockets that could take you on a vacation that is truly out of this world. Hopefully regulations won’t decelerate transportation progress too severely, especially in the case of driverless cars.
This first appeared in Cato at Liberty.