In Pictures: 12 cool future transportation concepts

From driverless cars to "never-stopping" trains, the way we get from point A to point B could be very different in the coming decades, most notably because of the new technologies that will be used

  • What will the planes, trains and automobiles of the future look like? Only time will tell, but many designs for concept transportation methods of the future involve using energy-efficient technology, increasing safety and mostly just making things more convenient for users. Here are a dozen concepts for the future of transportation.

  • Google driverless car Perhaps the most famous potential future transportation method is Google's driverless car. As described by the company, the cars use video cameras, radar sensors and laser range finders to drive. They've already hit the road, logging more than 300,000 miles without an accident, Google engineers recently reported. One of the coolest features of the car (in our opinion): It can go through a Taco Bell drive-through!

  • Ford Traffic Jam Assist Google's not the only company looking at driverless cars. Ford is working on the technology too, specifically for slow-moving situations. Leveraging technology already available that allows cars to self-parallel park, the company envisions helping drivers during one of the most stressful times of any commute: sitting in a traffic jam. Ford Traffic Jam Assist gathers information about how far away the car in front of it is, keeping the driver a safe distance, but moving whenever it is able to. Ford hopes that in the future, you could eat your doughnut and drink your coffee, using both hands, during that horrible morning rush hour commute.

  • Airbus 2050 concept plane Debuting at the Paris Air Show last year, Airbus unveiled the company's concept plane for the future with some pretty funky design features. Most striking is the large panoramic roof that makes up the front portion of the plane, which Airbus says could be made of a biopolymer that would allow passengers to control how much light is let into the cabin. Inside, passengers would have personalized zones with high-definition holographic displays to hold meetings, or even play in a virtual golf game.

  • Cruising the high seas Cruise ships of the future will leverage various technologies that make them more energy efficient and provide passengers new experiences, researchers forecast. Massive boats with sails and that use ultra-highly efficient liquefied natural gas-powered engines and solar panels are predicted for cruise ships of the future. These features would be combined with a tri-hull design to increase stability and create new areas on a ship for passengers.

  • GM EN-V General Motors has a take on the driverless vehicle too, but its version isn't a car, rather it's the EN-V, the electric-networked vehicle. The EN-V is a two-wheeled battery-powered vehicle meant for urban transportation. It drives on its own using sensors to detect its surroundings and wireless communications to position itself in the city, which GM says make it ideal for dense urban environments because of its compact size and zero emissions.

  • MACH HighSpeed Bus concept Even if there are personalized self-driving vehicles, there will still be a need for public transportation, and that's where the high-speed bus designs come in. The MACH bus is aerodynamically designed to prevent wind friction and is powered by hydrogen fuel. It features a fluid suspension system to keep the ride nice and smooth. Because the bus will be traveling faster than most other vehicles, its safety features are enhanced, including having active and passive safety monitors and controls, meaning it's always alerting the driver of potential hazards. To keep it light, the bus has been built on a carbon-fiber chassis to maximize strength and minimize weight. And of course, it's red, just like the old-school London double-decker buses.

  • Straddling bus There are other bus concept ideas, too. Ever been stuck behind a bus that keeps making frequent stops in heavy traffic? This concept bus design avoids that inconvenience for drivers. Asian researchers have developed the idea of a "straddling bus," which would be elevated above the roadway allowing vehicles to pass underneath the bus to keep the flow of traffic moving even while the bus makes frequent stops.

  • Solar Sailor What better place to catch some solar rays than out in the middle of the wide open ocean, unencumbered by trees and buildings? That's the thinking behind the Solar Sailor, a series of boats of various sizes that use solar energy to propel the ships. It works for anything from ferries to private yachts, all the way up to commercial shipping vessels. One has already been in use in Australia as a shuttle for more than a decade. The future is here!

  • Monotracer This two-wheeled enclosed electrically powered vehicle looks like an extended speed motorcycle that's ready for the rain. The Monotracer features two smaller wheels on either side of the vehicle that protrude from the body of the vehicle at slow speeds or when stopped. Designers says it's big enough to fit two people, plus luggage for a weekend trip, but capable of reaching speeds above 120 miles per hour in an all-electric, lithium ion battery.

  • Never-stopping train On a long train ride, having the train stop at each station along the way slows the trip and wastes energy. That's why Asian researchers have developed the concept of the never-stopping train. The train runs on tracks but has cars on the top of it that when approaching a station detach from the train, allowing passengers to get on or disembark. Meanwhile, waiting at each train station is another car that will be picked up by the train, allowing new passengers to get on the train. The locomotive underneath never has to stop.

  • Road train If a never-stopping train doesn't suit your fancy, perhaps a road train will. In this concept, passengers in traditional cars would link up with other cars going in the same direction to create a road train. European researchers have created early versions of the technology, which require a lead vehicle that subsequent cars then follow using both imaging and communications technology. The line of cars all follow and mimic a lead car, creating a centipede of cars potentially, with vehicles being able to enter and exit the line as needed.

  • Flying cars! Of course a slideshow of future transportation concepts wouldn't be complete without a flying car, right? Moller International is hoping to make flying cars a reality in the future with its M400, which takes off vertically without the need for a runway, ushering in what could be the future of personal flying vehicles.

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