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Andrew Abulu continues his 'Imagine That' series: No.2

Part two of the IMAGINE THAT series.
Realistic scientific projections of the future, it proposes a radical solution to the imminent collapse of world transportation.


Solutions for the 21st Century

Bill Gates has a radical new idea...

On 29th June 2002, the biggest player in the transport industry, the 3-PAK Corporation, made a bold presentation at an extraordinary meeting of the European Union (EU); convened to find a solution to the envisaged transport problems in the 21st century; about its proposed mammoth project aimed at revolutionising and saving the imminent collapse of the transport industry.
Putting his wealth of experience in transforming ingenious technical ideas into business successes, the renowned William Henry Gates, chairman of 3-PAK Corporation, “lays his cards on the table” in his bold attempt to convince all that this is the ARRIVAL OF FUTURE DEPARTURES. Called the Personalised Online Patroller – Connectible Orbital Navigator (POP-CON), Gates presents a fully automatic air taxi that interconnects with any of several giant orbital airships for long distance travel. Remotely accessed, this user-friendly transport system is universally controlled by a super computer server.
With Hydrogen fuel sourced from Iceland, where natural geo-thermal energy reduces the cost of producing this “clean” fuel, his corporation hopes to produce cheap, safe, convenient, fast and personalised transport service literarily at the tip of your fingers. 

3-PAK’s efforts seem to be the answer to the demands of a fast developing and mobile 21st century world. Huge markets presented in the emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe make this technology a viable option for the future.  The address of Mr William Henry Gates, chairman 3-PAK corporation and former CEO of software giant Microsoft Corporation, titled “The Arrival of Future Departures”, read to the European Council at an extraordinary meeting on 29th June 2002 in Luxembourg: 

I am here today to brief you on our proposal for a final solution to the threatened collapse of world transportation. With the historic changes that have seen all of Europes' air transportation consolidatde into one carrier, and America down to two major carrieras, as well as the collapse of many regional airlines throughout the world, a solution to world transportaiton is clearly esential.The 3-PAK corporation has invested the equivalent of over 430 Million Euros within the last three years in research and prototype designs of various alternatives to present modes of transportation.  I now have the privilege and pleasure to announce to this gathering the future of transportation in the 21st century.
Combining the availability of a personal car, the efficiency and luxury of an aircraft and eliminating the responsibility of maintenance and security and burden of looking for parking space. I present to you the PERSONALISED ONLINE PATROLER – CONNECTIBLE ORBITAL NAVIGATOR (POP-CON). 

Coined to eliminate the phobia often associated with every new technology, research has shown that the mere mention of the POP-CON suggests a feeling associated with the popcorn eaten around the world in places of recreation and relaxation.  POP-CON is an intermodal individual cum mass transit system consisting of individual POP “smart-cars” remotely called by a transponder built-in as a single key activated from any of the new triple face Zelda 3 UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication Service) phones.
Equipped with Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capabilities, POP cars are able to pick passengers virtually from any location. They can travel at high speeds and at close intervals, avoiding collision with the aid of on-board sensors. Tolls, permits and visas are obtained via the Internet.
While on board these cars, ambient conditions and features within can be adjusted to suit individual needs. A Global Positioning System (GPS) consisting of 96 satellites and ground sub-stations provide precise, three-dimensional position, 24 hours a day all over the world regardless of weather conditions. This tracking system locates any of these air borne POP cars nearest to a call and directs it accurately to the caller within 2 to 7.5 minutes. With several thousands operating within a definite cell of 500 km Square, a POP car flies into the connectible port of huge CON cruise airships to drop passengers travelling beyond their 500 km range. When within 500km of final destination, the commuter activates the POP call button again for an on-board pick-up for the final approach. Switching between CONs will be a regular feature.  Both the POP and the CON are fly-by-wire (fully automatic) operated. A super computer server monitors all operations and state of POP cars and CON cruisers thereby ensuring the highest safety standards. It will be like the existing drive-on, drive-off trains for automobiles, currently running between the British and French coasts.

The CON is a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) aircraft capable of take-off and landing on conventional runways and can also be flown into an orbital flight path. They also use the spacecraft technology of automatic attitude-stabilisation and control system to compensate for minor disturbances caused by other passing CONs.
It is estimated that this user-friendly mode of transportation will capture over 65 per cent of world commuters in the first fifteen years of take-off and in 25 years nearly all other forms of public transportation will be obsolete. With the entire project costing the equivalent of over 867 billion Euros, the initial cost of this service is put at around 4 Euros per km. However the cost is expected to drop significantly when fully operational. These huge capital funds will be raised from capital markets around the world. In translating this ingenious technical vision into reality, I enjoin you, the shapers of the world, to support this noble project that solves the nagging problem of gridlock in our transport system and guarantees “mobility and the sustainability of 21st century travel”.  
Important questions that may be asked concerning the political implications, effect on existing transport industries and professions, social responses, environment and other issues will be now addressed.

Travel Time
Travel time is the most important service quality attribute in transportation. It is vital in emergency and rescue work. Instant availability of vehicles, speed, traffic obstruction, intermittent stops are several factors that determine travel time. Time spent at boarding stations greatly add to travel time. The POP-CON cuts travel time to the barest minimum. With a maximum call time of 2 to 7.5 minutes travel time is cut to the barest minimum. 

User Cost
Operational cost of the POP-CON is low due to the number of vehicles run by the same control and maintenance system. Several hundreds of thousands of POP cars and a few thousands of CON cruisers share these costs thereby transforming only a meagre 4 Euros per km to the commuters. Onboard commercials and services will also help to subsidise the user cost in future. 

Environmental Issues
World’s resources of mineral fuels and existing radioactive materials presently used in nuclear power stations will be probably exhausted in a few decades. Hydrogen gas derived from seawater; a virtually limitless resource, pollution-free and fully recycle-able; was therefore adopted as fuel for the POP-CON. Several Hydrogen production plants in Iceland produce cheap Hydrogen using natural geo-thermal energy. This Northern country presently generates over 90 per cent of its electricity from these natural sources; even so only one twentieth of these natural resources are exploited. Environmentalists are naturally in support of this new Earth saving mode of transport. Already several of the world’s biggest oil exploration and production companies such as the Shell Group have diversified into alternative energy production, with Hydrogen gas production looking very promising. 
Urban drift and social mobility
With the spread of capitalism and industrialisation, the flow of migrant workers has accelerated dramatically across and between all parts of the world. In many developed countries, some jobs are unpopular or considered “beneath” the local population, who sometimes price themselves beyond the labour market or simply refuse the so-called- 3-D (dangerous, difficult, dirty) jobs. This stimulates the flow of migrant labour from rural to urban areas. These and other migrant workers from poorer countries also require a cheap and efficient mode of transportation to take them to and from work thereby preserving links to their relatives. The POP-CON will surely help to balance out global supply and demand of labour. 

The hovering capability of the POP cars is an ideal feature for tourists on a safari or other nature-viewing tours. With these airborne taxis, difficult terrains can be easily reached. With over 600 million arrivals, annual worldwide earnings from international tourism will exceed the equivalent of 500 Billion Euros.  

Existing transport industries that remain relevant:
It is goods news all the way for existing transport manufacturers. The days of stop-and-go pattern of employment characteristic of aerospace industry will be over. POP-CON will bring about standardisation thereby eliminating those frequent components and aircraft design changes caused by intra-industry competition. 

Since the POP-CON has very similar components as conventional aircrafts, manufacturing companies such as Boeing-McDonnell Douglas and Airbus Industrie will receive the blueprints to manufacture these crafts. All new crafts will be logged-on to the global sever controlled by the 3-PAK corporation. 

Marketing consortiums such as the Aero International Regional will be a major dealer in the POP and CON crafts. Every player in the industry will either be absorbed into a parent company or function as a specialised component manufacturer or service provider. More jobs will therefore be saved than lost.
Global anti-trust policy and free trade well balanced
Trusts and cartels using monopolistic business practices to make unfair profits will find it difficult to thrive since all willing specialised companies will be encouraged to independently produce or run these POP cabbies and support services just as anyone is free to develop new search engines used to surf the Internet.  

Also as with the Internet, anyone can offer specialised services using rented equipment from the bigger companies; whatever way you look at it, everyone is a winner. This will create an open economy thereby encouraging competition and a free market. The huge capital and investment thus generated from this global economy will then be ploughed back to expand the industry and therefore reduce the user cost of the POP-CON.
This new transport system will break regional barriers such as the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) thereby promoting the true concept of globalisation. All things considered
With all questions answered and all answers unquestionable, the only unanswered question is, “why didn’t we think of this 50 years ago?”
While POP-CON will not fulfil those science fiction teleport travels, or that trip to Mars, it will prove that the sky is still the limit.

© Andrew Abulu 2001
IMAGINE THAT from Andrew Abulu: Part One


Which tries to unravel the mystery of who we are,
where we come from, the things we believe and those we
take for granted.
This is a frightening revelation of fact-like fiction
and fiction-like fact of things you can hardly
Science and religion agree in this article on what’s
going to happen to the universe and us in our next
stage of evolution and obliteration.

P.O. BOX 5636, MARINA, LAGOS, 101001

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