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The future of travel: From flying cars to shared vehicles

By Andrew Keen, for CNN
updated 10:16 PM EDT, Wed May 15, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Countries around the world are innovating to create new modes of transportation
  • From car sharing schemes and smart cities to flying cars, many possibilities within reach
  • Many progressive ideas come from outside of the U.S.

Editor's note: CNN contributor Andrew Keen organized and hosted an invitation-only Silicon Valley event called FutureCast. A group of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and writers discussed the impact of the digital revolution on transportation. All this week CNN Business Traveller will bring you highlights from the debate. AT&T and Ericsson hosted the conference at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.

(CNN) -- Does the best transport technology come from outside the U.S.? That was the question pondered at the FutureCast event last month. Guests from around the world were invited to guarantee that the conversation would not be too Silicon Valley centric.

Frost & Sullivan Chairman David Frigstad argued at the debate that much of the best innovation in transportation has come from outside the U.S. and even predicted that the building of what he called "a collision proof mobility system" would most likely be realized outside the United States.

"Other countries will probably get there first," Frigstad predicted of this kind of large-scale transportation project, "because some other leader will recognize this as an opportunity to revolution their economy."

Read more: Self-driving cars hit the road

As an example of non-American innovation, Frigstad spoke particularly highly about the work of Shai Agassi, the Israeli creator of the electric vehicle network Better Place which, he noted, is "far ahead" of anything created in the U.S.

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But even Better Place pales in comparison to Songo, a $35 billion Korean city of the future built from the ground up.

As Bernard Moon, co-founder and general partner of the Korean-American venture fund Spark Labs noted, Songo is "basically a transportation lab where they are experimenting with various kinds of car sharing to bike sharing to water taxis and intelligent highways. Just everything."

Well perhaps not quite everything. Absent from the $35 billion Korean city of the future are flying cars.

But flying cars do actually exist. As Peter Laanan, International Trade Director at Netherlands Business Support Office, explained, they are being developed by a Dutch start-up, Pal-V.

"You need a helicopter license to drive that thing," Laanan said about the Pal-V flying car.

Read more: Transporation confronts its "Kodak moment"

But perhaps the strangest transportation innovation we learnt about at FutureCast comes from Russia. As Steve Lefever, who heads up Frost & Sullivan's Russian office, explained, car sharing exists in Moscow but with a twist.

"In Moscow you just wave down a car and they take you somewhere," Lefever told the FutureCast audience about a Russian version of the American car sharing network Sidecar.

"What's the business model?" I asked him.

"There is no business model," he said. Lefever explained about this truly collaborative Muscovite ride-sharing phenomenon: "It is individuals driving around finding individuals who need a place to go.

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