Many were skeptical when online retail giant Amazon announced it was looking into the possibility of delivering goods to private households by drone, but in July 2014, the company’s Prime Air initiative petitioned the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test “small unmanned aircraft systems” in the U.S., stating that “one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation.”
Since then, Google has launched a drone initiative called Project Wing and, in October 2015, Walmart applied to the FAA for permission to test the use of drones to take stock of trailers at its warehouses and—potentially—to deliver goods directly to customers at the company’s facilities or in their homes. Drones clearly won’t be the answer to every freight transport need, but they do exemplify the idea that when it comes to innovation in transportation systems, the sky’s quite literally the limit.
Similarly, driverless vehicles, which seemed like a science fiction invention a decade or so ago, are now legal or actually being road-tested in several U.S. states and European countries. Also known as autonomous vehicles, they are expected to cut down on road accidents caused by driver error and increase the capacity of roads by shrinking the minimum safe distance between vehicles.
By Sarah B. Hood