[extropy-chat] Emlyn mentioned flying cars....

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Wed Mar 15 16:46:40 UTC 2006

On 3/14/06, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:

> You know, the long haul travel problem doesn't just have to be solved
> by airflight. The problem is to travel from city to city quickly, with
> minimum fuss at either end, and hopefully with your car with you when
> you get to the destination.

Emlyn, there are already long haul transport systems implemented.  The TGV
in France cruises at 300+ km/h and can reach 500+ km/h.  The Shanghai Maglev
train (from the Pudong airport to Shanghai proper cruises at 354 km/h (max:
434 km/h)) but web articles argue that it is losing a lot of money doing so
given its construction cost.  I don't think you are going to get much above
those speeds, particularly for longer distances without an evacuated
tunnel.  These have been discussed for a long time.  I think I've seen a TV
show (Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel?, etc.) regarding one
that people have thought about across/under the Atlantic Ocean (presumably
something like NY to London). Nanomaterials would be nice but it could
probably be done using current materials.  The basic problem is construction
cost.  *That* in turn relates significantly to labor cost.  I've never seen
any cost estimates for a transatlantic evacuated Maglev train tunnel built
using nanotechnology (carbon nanotubes, nanorobotic assemblers, etc.).  It
wouldn't be "free" but it would be very interesting to see the capital costs
based on Drexler's $0.5/kg for the tunnel & the trains and the operating
costs on a per trip basis (how efficient can nanotechnology really get for
accelerating and decelerating large objects?).

Of couse you *could* go faster in planes.  I recall with some fondness in my
younger days (:-)) watching the big LED display at the front of the
passenger section of the Concorde (now no longer flying :-() hit Mach 1.0,
then slowly climbed up to 1.7, maybe even 2.0 (this was 20 or so years ago I
think) -- so we have had the technology to make this happen for a very long
time (construction of the first Concordes began over 40 years ago).  Leaving
aside the sonic boom question however, I think you would need to have very
refined GPS positioning, good weather, esp. wind velocity, prediction,
regional total aircraft route planning and collision avoidance systems in
all aircraft before you started flitting around the country at Mach

How about some kind of automated mega-highway, where your car goes
> onto remote pilot and proceeds at 300mph or so, fully automated, to
> the other end? If it were enclosed (like a tunnel) obstacles like
> wildlife wouldn't matter so much.

You could easily drive a your low-velocity air-car onto a container-train
(ferry?) in NY and off the train once it arrives in London.  The only
problem I foresee is having to rewire your brain to drive on the other side
of the road twice a day for the NY<->London commuters.

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