Bored of just two dimensions of travel? The third, fourth and fifth are on the way, according to a new report.
Lurking in the increasingly retro-looking Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World is the throwback ride, Carousel of Progress. Delightfully optimistic, the animatronics let rip with a Sherman Brothers song, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow", as the scenery changes through the years.
One thing that never changes, however, is the ability of those punting transport systems to promise big. Bigly, to the point where even The Simpsons' Lyle Lanley might say "steady on…"
Case in point: Frost & Sullivan's analysis, Evolution of 3rd, 4th and 5th Dimensions of Travel, concerning the transport modes that might find favour over the next 30 years.
For the third dimension it appears that we will not be merely fiddling with the likes of Euclidean geometry, oh no. It'll be air taxis (probably not driven by Bruce Willis) and hoverbikes. After all, with autonomous cars proving to be such a, er, boon, we can't imagine the likes of Uber Air being mired in development hell until the Sun burns out. We also note that hoverbikes are very much here already, if you consider British back-garden boffin Colin Furze and his human blender.
Adventures in the fourth dimension
The fourth dimension suggested is sadly not time (although a time machine is probably more likely than some of the predictions). No, it's Maglev and, friend of El Reg, Hyperloop.
The former, which carries the distinct whiff of Lyle Lanley's monorail about it, has a chequered history. Indeed, Britain had a crack at making such a device, where magnets are used to both levitate and push a train, back in the 1970s with the Hovertrain test article. Another ran from the UK's Birmingham Airport to a rail station 600 metres away for a decade from 1984.
Although the above are now museum pieces, 2003's Shanghai Maglev Train has a cruise speed of 431km/h (268mph), making it the first commercial high-speed variant, even if the line itself is a mere 30.5km (19 miles) long.
While initially attractive due to a lack of moving parts, friction and noise, Maglev technology remains pricey compared to traditional modes of transportation. It is, however, nothing compared to the costs involved (and technology required) for that other fourth-dimensional mode of transportation: Hyperloop.
Truly the stuff of science-fiction, a Hyperloop proposes creating vacuum tubes and blasting passenger compartments down the things at speeds approaching 1,000kph with the aid of maglev-style technology. As one would expect, beardy Brit billionaire Richard Branson is involved in punting the tech and fellow self-aggrandiser Elon Musk has long been a cheerleader for the concept.
"Hyperloop will reinvent transportation to eliminate barriers of distance and time," boasts Hyperloop One, busting through dimension number four.
Adventures in space and the fifth dimension
The fifth dimension of travel is, unsurprisingly, all about space. "Suborbital travel is expected to become widely commercialised," explained Joe Praveen Vijayakumar, intelligent mobility analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
While quite correct that a sub-orbital rocket could deposit passengers anywhere on Earth in around an hour, the technology has proven difficult to make commercially viable. Neither Blue Origin nor Virgin Galactic have managed to send paying passengers on a sub-orbital lob despite years of development. An oft-cited candidate, Elon Musk's Starship, has an unfortunate occurence of exploding during testing.
Still, when it works, a whole host of applications await, according to Vijayakumar, "including zero-gravity weddings and photoshoots."
Vijayakumar cited the driving force behind the impending innovations as "the issues associated with the current travel modes – longer commute time, carbon emissions, accidents, and traffic congestion." The report reckons that safety considerations (such as how to manage all those air taxis) and solar power (to provide the juice for Hyperloops) are therefore growth opportunities. As is space tourism.
We were disappointed that the sixth dimension of travel did not get a mention, namely the sitting in one's underwear at home and swearing loudly at Teams or Zoom or whatever recalcitrant remote-working tool has been recommended by IT.
Sure, it may be almost 40 years since the Shuttles first flew and soon it will be 50 years since astronauts last bounded about on the Moon. But, if the report is to be believed, in a mere 30 years we could be hopping around the world via rocket before being blasted from spaceport to city centre via Hyperloop.
So, for now, we'll remain in our sixth dimension of travel, trying to remember what it was like to wear socks, and sing along to fill the time.