By 2050, the world will be urban, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, many of them in mega cities with populations of more than 10 million. Moving people around each megalopolis will be a huge challenge.
The average traffic speed in central London has fallen to about 7 miles per hour, around the same speed it was 150 years ago in the days of the horse-and-cart.
But city planners are working on solutions to the gridlock. Self-driving cars will play a part. It’s predicted there will already be more than 30 million autonomous cars on the road by 2040.
Autonomous vehicles are already in operation in controlled areas, for example airport shuttles.
By 2050, city streets are likely to be patrolled by Robo taxis that we can summon at a single touch. Public transport will be highly personalized, no more scouring the bus timetable, instead internet-connected transport shuttles will dynamically route themselves according to where the passengers need to go.
That slow last mile of travel may shift to two wheels, electric scooters and bikes schemes will proliferate. They’re still illegal in many places amid safety concerns, but cities could build special lanes to accommodate riders jamming in.
Southeast China already has an 8 kilometer elevated cycle way, and academics worldwide are designing much longer covered tubes to protect riders high above city streets.
Another likely feature of urban transport in 2050 will be, companies like Uber and Lilium Jet are planning fleets of flying taxis, electric jets that can take off vertically from landing pads dotted around the city.
Underground systems may include the hyperloops, with travel pods hurtling down vacuum-sealed tubes at high speed. All that might mean more space at ground level. Many cities are already turning some central streets into pedestrian zones.
Urban transport in 2050 might, for many people, return to the oldest form of all.
Lastly, in a more grim scenario, our modern civilization gets annihilated by climate change, and our mode of transport goes Mad Max style.