Graham Morse, guest columnist
You sit in traffic congestion every day. It takes an hour to get to work. Sometimes longer. Then an hour again at the end of the day.
That’s 21 days of every year stuck in your car. 21 wasted days. 21 days of road rage, stress, boredom and polluting the air.
Imagine what you could do with 21 more days a year? Our roads are already congested. Imagine what it might be like when our population grows to 100,000 in the next 10 to 15 years as some politicians have predicted.
There are some short-term fixes in place now. We are seeing more road building, changes to road layouts and police marshalling at peak times.
Longer-term measures could include a better bus network. Staggering school starting time to avoid the rush hour or making school buses mandatory for private and public schools would make a difference.
Road pricing would help cut down peak time traffic. In the UK a congestion charge cut traffic coming in and out of central London by more than 10%.
New roads keep traffic flowing but it piles up when it reaches critical roundabout intersections. An overpass/flyover could solve this.
But it’s all just putting a finger in the dyke. The average car spends 90% of its life in a parking lot or garage at home or work – all that time still costing its owner in depreciation, insurance and maintenance.
There has to be a better way of moving people about. We should stop thinking about the car as something to own, but see it as a public service.
Imagine a driverless electric car collecting you from your home and dropping you at your destination. Using artificial intelligence technology the company has located one or more passengers near you with a similar journey.
You are ride sharing and there is no driver, so the cost is just a few dollars. There is no driver’s seat so two seats face forward and two back.
If the average riders per vehicle increased from one to two, it would halve the cars on the road. Because it was electric there would be no air pollution. Car parks could become obsolete, or become actual parks.
Imagine a mass transit system that ran from East End to West Bay. A high-speed monorail perhaps, or an ultralight railway with just a few stops.
Savannah to George Town central in just five minutes. To get to Savannah station you could share the driverless electric car with others going to the station. AI has enabled you to book and pay for it on your phone, of course, along with the train.
Imagine that when you get to George Town central station you use your smart phone to connect with Olli, a 12 seater self-driving minibus that takes you to your place of work. Artificial intelligence has worked out which is the right one for your short journey.
Olli can talk to you as well if you have any questions. She is a lightweight modern air conditioned electric vehicle, sustainably made using 3D printed parts. Cars are banned from the centre of town so Ollie can whizz around at up to 25 mph with no hold-ups.
Floating buses and flying bikes
Imagine a straddling bus. A space age 100-seater bus that appears to be floating above a grid-locked lane of cars. But it is not floating, it is moving on eight stilts. The stilts are connected to tracks set in the road between the lanes.
If there is an obstruction, a car wreck blocking the track for instance, it just lifts up a stilt to clear the obstruction and puts it back down on the other side.
When traffic is moving normally it keeps up a steady 40mph. When it hits congestion it just steps over it.
Imagine if we did not have to be connected to the ground. What if we had a flying car? An electric vertical take-off machine that is part drone and part helicopter. It will have two seats and be able to fly distances of up to 30 kilometers at 100 mph.
You won’t have to fly it. Your taxi will be piloted automatically from a control centre. Think of it as Uber in the air.
Imagine a flying bike. Like an electric motorbike but with four motors on each corner providing upward and forward thrust. Not driverless though. You will have to learn how to fly it yourself, but as it floats just a short way up in the air you won’t need a pilot’s licence or even a motorcycle licence.
Actually you don’t have to imagine any of these ideas. They are already in development, in pilot tests, or in operation now, along with many other futuristic concepts. The problems of population growth and traffic congestion are universal. Technology and artificial intelligence are driving the solutions.
Imagine a team of traffic management planners sitting in an office in Cayman developing a vision and designing a blue print of the right solution for our small island. Imagine what they’re thinking.