This iear in pioneering – Mobility Mavericks 2016Pioneers co-founder Jürgen Furian takes a look back at the most exciting mobility innovations of 2016 and explains why 2017 is going to be a good one for technology
A friend of mine, who also happens to be a former team member at Pioneers, is working on an intriguing app called himoment. The general idea of the app is to help you focus on the good times in life. This concept addresses one of our human flaws – that we tend to forget our successes and amazing moments too easily while the bad ones stick in our minds like chewing gum!
Take 2016 for a case in point. It’s easy to look back on the past year and recall nothing but the political earthquakes such as the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election, or to focus on the legends we’ve lost, among them Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Prince.
But I’m much more inclined to look back on some of the incredible advances we’ve seen in the past year. If you peek between the negative headlines, there have been some remarkable technical milestones, particularly in the field of mobility – an industry we’ll be exploring at our Mobility.Pioneers event in Munich in February 2017. So here goes with my pick of good-news stories from 2016!
Driverless Vehicles Get Serious
The days of having to make small talk with your taxi driver may be numbered! This year Uber brought a fleet of self-driving cars to the Pittsburgh market. OK, they’re being supervised by humans for now, but that won’t be the case for too much longer. After all, in another large-scale test, Swedish car maker, Volvo, will send 100 driverless cars onto the streets of Gothenburg next year. In logistics we also saw a big moment in October, when a self-driving truck hauled a load of beer for Anheuser-Busch in Colorado. This was understood to have been the first ever autonomous commercial truck delivery.
Flying Cars Land on the Scene
With gridlock in our ever-growing cities among the biggest resource and productivity-wasters I can think of, the option of leapfrogging the traffic can’t come soon enough. Google CEO Larry Page seems to agree on that, with his Zee.Aero flying car company working flat-out on a small craft that can take off and land vertically. Page is backing a second project with his own millions: Kitty Hawk. The latter is run by Google alumnus Sebastian Thrun, aka the Godfather of self-driving cars.
Serious money is also flowing into VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) in Europe too. Munich startup Lilium Aviation recently raised €10m to build the world’s first electric VTOL jet. Then, in the Slovenian city of Bratislava, the Aeromobil team led by Juraj Vaculik has recruited key people from McLaren and Airbus to put the final touches on their latest prototype, making it the closest flying car to market. Welcome to The Jetsons.
Supersonic Aircraft Back on the Runway
Were you born too late for Concorde? I know the feeling! Well, 2016 was a good-news year for people who missed out on the first era of supersonic jet travel. Last month Boom Technology unveiled details of its XB-1 demo plane. This cute little two-seater is a step in the Denver firm’s plans to develop a 45-55-person aircraft that can reach speeds of 1,450mph – in theory going supersonic far more cost-effectively than Concorde did.
With a test flight planned for 2017 and commercial operation slated for 2023, Boom’s work is backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Personally, I can’t wait to fly from Europe to New York in three-and-a-half hours.
An Electrifying Performance
We’ve been hearing the words ‘electric’ and ‘road-going’ and ‘hypercar’ for some time now. That’s thanks to the unveiling of the production version of Rimac Automobili’s high-performance Concept_One machine. The brainchild of Mate Rimac, the sleek machine is powered by four extremely powerful permanent magnet electric motors in a novel layout featuring one motor for each wheel. The car can reach speeds of 300kph, and can get there from a standing start in 14.2 seconds.
Big Steps in the Space Game
We saw a huge moment for space travel in April 2016. After taking its cargo successfully into orbit, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket landed safely on a drone ship. Previously, rocket boosters have been ‘thrown away’, falling into the sea after the initial part of the trip into space. With the possibility to re-use rockets now a realistic one, space travel enthusiast and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sees potential to massively bring down costs. “This is another step towards the stars,” said Musk.
Whether we’re talking land, air or even space travel, 2016 was a wonderful and positive year for mobility. There was plenty of good news elsewhere, too, if you look for it. Take the giant panda, whose numbers have recovered to the point of escaping the endangered species list back in September.
So fasten your seat belts for an exciting 2017!