When we watch futuristic films, we usually see big skyscrapers and vehicles flying over each other in the city of the future. But I wouldn’t be happy if that was our future. If we think logically about it, the question arises as to where these vehicles will land among these gigantic towers. We are looking at a continuous artificial environment, and I would be happy if the Earth were in a better state. Of course, in technology there are always newer and newer solutions, but at the moment, drones are the most realistic. We can use them to transport parcels and even people, and the boundary between the drone and the helicopter is becoming very blurred. The boundaries between, say, an aeroplane, a helicopter or an aircraft taking off from a place are becoming narrower. They are technologically different, but this is not really noticeable to the layman. It has to be said, however, that we won’t have such sci-fi cities and devices any time soon. Let us remember that we have been working for a hundred years to make horizontal transport, car transport, safe, but it is not; the same would cause unimaginable chaos in three dimensions. With a flying car, you are asking virtually the same questions as today: where do I park, where do I get off, where do I get on, etc. So the techniques you see in these films do not actually solve anything.
Cars in the air. Flying cars, by the way, are a super technology, there are several solutions, I have seen prototypes of some of them. I have to add: even if it does not change the cityscape, it is still very important. There are many areas where a flying car could revolutionise part of society, because the roads are so bad, for example, in the developing world or in a marshy area. So it is a question of where and how we use these technologies. Many companies are currently working on flying cars – and that is very good and exciting – but only later will we find out exactly where it will be good. There may be flying cars in many cities, but for a specific purpose, for police officers, for example.
The important question is whether we give the technology to specialised professionals or to the masses. A rocket-powered device could give the emergency services a big advantage, because it is not always the case how long it takes to get up to the fourth floor to rescue someone, but they are a specialised group. And these devices, these experiments, are worth imagining not necessarily in this form, but they are breaking ground. It’s conceivable that in 30 years’ time every car will have a life-saving catapult that can only throw a car five metres into the air in a life-threatening situation, but that will save you.
There is a lot of innovation going on now, for example the railways are preparing for another revolution with their speed, which could even take the lead back from air transport. But other means of transport are also becoming smarter, more convenient and more personalised, with the availability of bicycles, e- scooters, etc. The key is to be able to choose which means of transport you want and not to interfere with each other. Smarter solutions are emerging in public transport, but it is not the basic robust technology that is changing. The change is that we are becoming more fine-tuned and more consumer-centric. We have never known as much about transport as we do now – and we will know more – because we have so many sensors. In a smart city strategy, it is appropriate to integrate 60 sensors into the life of a city, of which only one is transport. Because among them are water temperature, sewer temperature, air movement, etc., which make the city feel like a living organism. The change will be to give as much of it as possible to the people who need it. A suburban bus will now leave knowing who is waiting where and adapting to the passengers. The more data we have, the better we can plan.
An important aspect for the future is to protect our environment and reduce our ecological footprint.
This is a huge challenge. Energy is not bad, we have much more than we need, but we will always use it up. Reducing our ecological footprint is an inevitable challenge, and one solution is to use it when we really need it. That makes a big difference. Today, a third of food is thrown away, but it could be solved today. Just as there are unnecessary trips. Perhaps one of the most important is to always think in terms of a full cost-benefit analysis. You can have electric cars everywhere, which seems like a very green solution, but if the production of batteries, the energy surplus of charging them, is more of a hassle than expected, then you have to be smarter.
At the moment, it is much more about people than technology. It is a good way to move as much as possible to green energy, but a lot depends on people. For example, having a smart meter in a home does not mean that people are using technology more intelligently. However, if a display could tell you that if you start washing half an hour later, you will save money, you could influence and change a habit. Or by networking smart meters, I can see how electricity is used in a community, and better distribute it. And if I put a virtual power station – a software – on top of that, I can essentially manage electricity. Reducing the ecological footprint will not be a magic solution, but rather, for example, a way of lending electricity to each other, a ‘swap’. Or that I will be able to drive for free because I have turned off the electricity at work and saved money.
The ideal vision would be nice green trees, because that would mean that the air is good, the soil is good and there is room for trees. Personal transport, but not big and not having to travel somewhere if you don’t have to. People should use whatever means of transport they like, but enjoy it. A city becomes a happy city when people enjoy moving around in it. If people enjoy public transport, they will take care of that city because they like living there. There is a competition between cities: to “attract” people who can be made happy and who will make the city economically strong. It can be a win-win situation. After all, a traffic jam means billions of forints lost every morning.
Are we educating future generations to do this ?
We can teach them awareness, and they can teach us by reflecting what we have shown them. The generational game is a back-and-forth process, and the young people of today are becoming more aware of how to do things right.