12 innovations around Christmas - 3: Transport for travel

For many around the world, Christmas time is an opportunity to get away and visit family and friends across the country or even around the world. For a long time, families in Australia have packed the car and gotten away for a while.  Visiting family and friends in far off places or taking a trek away with the kids is synonymous with the Australian lifestyle.

Innovation in transport/vehicles has changed these trips over the years. Kombi-style camper vans were a classic through the 1960s and 70s in Australia with travel and accommodation in one unit. The flexibility to carry people and luggage (and maybe a surfboard or two) made them a popular vehicle. Mercedes Benz has recently announced a modern take on this type of vehicle, with their new version available for sale in Australia sometime in 2017.

A different option on the horizon is the self-driving car. Trials are currently underway by various {several} companies to get us from place to place without touching the steering wheel. The first self-driving car developed in Australia was revealed in October this year. Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors has an Autopilot option on its production model vehicles. These cars are commercially available. They aren’t yet not fully self-driving, but we’re getting much closer to the driverless future.

Another Elon Musk transport project is SpaceX’s Hyperloop technology. the as Is it a future state for travelling cross country? It’s not yet proven, but if it’s feasible and functional, travel across long distances will be cheaper and faster. To get industry on board, SpaceX has open sourced the Hyperloop technology.

Open source is similar to a patent, in that the information is available to the public. However, a patent allows for a monopoly on the product during the patent lifetime, with the information available for public use once the patent expires. Open source provides the information to the product, but allows others to make changes or improvements to the idea or implementation without cost or restriction.

Open sourcing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand name is available for others to use. SpaceX, Tesla, Hyperloop One and Mercedes Benz protect their brand name through trade marks here and internationally. Open source, patents, trade marks, copyright and trade secrets are all potential options for people developing or improving technology. Right now open source technology is helping us to get better vehicles.

And what does the future hold for holidays? Will the Hyperloop send us to the beach in an hour? Will we be visiting other planets with friends as a quick weekend getaway? Will we even have to drive ourselves to work?

14 December 2016