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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013

Tesla's pneumatic transport tube

Plus, is the era of driverless cars almost here?



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ClarkHoward.com and The Clark Howard Show have more info on the future of automobile travel in the United States.

By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


The founder of Tesla wants to shuttle you between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a high-speed pneumatic tube.

Elon Musk imagines the Hyperloop as "a cross between a Concord, a rail gun and an air hockey table," according to one of his recent Tweets. The proposed speed of this system that's still very early in the design stage is somewhere around 800 miles per hour! 

Sounds pretty crazy today, but who knows in the not-too-distant future?

Meanwhile, imagine if your car could travel as part of a convoy with wireless technology guiding it, much like the carriages of a train.

Some time ago, I read in The Economist  about an experiment in Europe to use a new technology called adaptive cruise control that's in some high-end cars with the wireless technology protocol known as 8.02.11 P that allows vehicles to communicate with each other.

Closer to home, Google has been testing driverless cars on public roads.

In theory, you would be able to read a book, watch a movie, or talk to your heart's content on your cell phone while you car moved you from point A to point B. When you got near your destination, you would disengage from the convoy and go on your own.

This technology already exists and will no doubt be perfected in the next few years. For now, Nevada has become the first state to allow automated cars to legally drive.

I know there will be a big psychological hurdle of us being willing to cede control of that steering wheel. That's just human nature.  But I think this idea would eliminate accidents and allow more traffic to travel on the same glide path on the road than can do so now.

The question that arose in a J.D. Power 2012 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study was, how much extra would you be willing to pay for a self-driving car? Tweny percent of respondents said $3,000 extra. But I know I'd be willing to pay a lot more than for my tween daughter who will become a driver in the next few years.

When this does become more commonplace, I think the first best use of this technology will be with freight, those 53-foot long truck trailers that barrel down the interstate.

There's even a side benefit: When you think about sports like biking and NASCAR, where you have multiple cars or bikes traveling in a pack, so much of that is about drafting. The forward momentum of the bodies in front helps to pull along the rest of the pack. So the vehicles that follow closely behind use far less fuel because they're being drafted down the highway.

I know its sounds like I'm far out there. Maybe I am. But I believe this is the future.