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Transport visions, past and present (photos)

From the utopian retro-futurism of the '40s and '50s to current emerging vehicle concepts and manifestations, the future of travel has never looked cooler.
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By Chris Jablonski, Inactive on
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1 of 21 Chris Jablonski/ZDNet

This gallery is a journey through the future of transportation. All you'll need is your mouse.

After the two World Wars, an artistic trend know as retro-futurism depicted a simple, streamlined, and colorful future in which civilization was awash with high-speed air transport, computers, and space stations.

The "March of Progress" published in 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics, projects the ideas of the 1960s optimism and great expectations for future transportation in general.

Photo credit: Dark Roasted Blend

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Enormous automobiles such as this vacation hovercraft were modeled after the cars popular at the time.

Photo credit: Ridebuzz.org

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With railroad tracks already crisscrossing the country, why not make cars capable of running on tracks? You'd be able to light up without distraction: and in today's world, text, chat, email, and watch videos rather than mind the controls. 

Photo credit: Ridebuzz.org

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Japanese retro-futures similarly envisioned people streaking through the future in fantastic machines. Today's Shinkansen or "Bullet Train" high-speed railway network more or less delivered on the idea with trains reaching speeds near 200 miles per hour. China is developing a train that could glide at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour using magnetic levitation. 

Photo credit: Visual News

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In the minds of artists in the '40s, seaplanes would some day evolve into gargantuan flying boats like this one from World Skyways Inc.

Photo credit: Dark Roasted Blend

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Fast forward a few decades and you've got your first real attempt at a flying car. Taking over 40 years to develop, the $500,000 M400 SkyCar is the first personal flying car that can take off vertically (a.k.a. VLOT - vertical take-off and landing). It managed to hover in 2003 with a tether, but subsequent public flight tests have been postponed to this day.

Photo credit: Moller International

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The Terrafugia Transition 'Flying Car' made headlines recently after its first successful flight. It will be on display at the New York International Auto Show until April 15th where onlookers will marvel at the perfect blend of novelty and impracticality.  Learn more on SmartPlanet.

Photo credit: Terrafugia

 

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While driverless cars make for good publicity in the US, driverless pod cars are zooming around at London Heathrow Airport transporting passengers between Terminal 5 and car parks. These driverless cars don't rely on tracks so can be used on regular roads. Learn more about pod cars on ZDNet.  

Photo credit: Ultra PRT

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Electric motorcycle maker BRD Motorcycles is taking pre-orders for its RedShift line of eye-catching bikes. They run quiet and promise instant throttle response and flat, endless torque. Learn more about electric motorcycles on ZDNet.

Photo Credit: BRD Motorcycles

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Exoskeletons give hope to injured people by letting them to overcome physical limitations through bionic augmentation. The military is also pursuing the technology to enhance the capabilities of soldiers. Learn more about wearable robots at SmartPlanet.

Photo credit: Gabriela Hasbun via Fast Company

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Lit Motors wants to reinvent motorcycles to include some of the benefits of enclosed vehicles. The C1-concept uses patented gyroscopic stability technology that helps prevent it from tipping over. Watch a video of the C1 at ZDNet.

Photo credit: Lit Motors

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Personal helicopter concepts come in all shapes and sizes. Igarashi Design unveiled a single-seat concept in 2008 that looks like a robot as much as it does a helicopter. 

Photo credit: Igarashi Design

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The OREE, a minimal electric motorcycle idea from industrial designer Andre Federico Look and Niko Albertus, was a winning design at the BraunPrize 2009 exhibition. 

Photo credit: Andre Federico Look

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Airships could be back in the spotlight as investment from DARPA brings new technologies to lighter-than-air transportation. 

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics

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Pneumatic tube transport for humans is an idea circulating since Jules Verne's "Paris in the 20th Century", published in 1863. The author envisioned tube trains stretching across the ocean. Today, Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT or ET3) has a patent that if materialized could one day zoom you from New York to Beijing in just two hours.

Photo credit: ETT

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This "folding" EV, a collaboration between MIT and the Spanish government, features four independent in-wheel motors and the ability to fold the cabin up vertically when parked. 

Photo credit: Engadget

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The Intelligent Bike Concept incudes a solar-powered backup motor, an onboard computer, a fingerprint security scanner and a spoke-free wheel design.

Photo credit: The Coolist

 

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By 2047, fully autonomous, intelligent military aircraft could combine strong AI, swarming behavior, and hypersonic technology to create near-instantaneous effects.

Photo credit: DARPA

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The Startram orbital launch system would transport passengers and cargo into space in a magnetic levitation (maglev) train.

Credit: Gizmag

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The cost-efficient and light Skylon is an unpiloted spaceplane concept by British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL).

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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By 2150, futurists envision automated cities with hi-tech districts that are sterile and quiet. Public transport, cars, and other vehicles will be resistant to dirt, bacteria, weather, graffiti, and vandalism. 

Photo credit: Luca Oleastri, Dreamstime.com via Futuretimeline.net

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