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New transportation will blow your hair back

By Thom Patterson, CNNUpdated 5th December 2014
The human race is poised to enter a new era of transportation that would have seemed miraculous just a few generations ago.
Cars are learning to drive themselves.
Trains that float above rails are expected to rocket passengers to other cities at hundreds of miles an hour.
Engineers are developing space planes that could fly us to the other side of the planet in one or two hours.
The latest leap: Humans are a step closer to landing on Mars.
On Friday, NASA launched its first unmanned flight of a spacecraft designed to take people to the Red Planet. The Orion capsule shot more than 3,000 miles into space and circled Earth twice before splashing down into the Pacific.
Billionaire space entrepreneur Elon Musk already has a plan to build a Martian colony.
Students at the Art Center College of Design are designing the cars of tomorrow.
3-D printed LEAP jet engine parts are helping to make the latest airplane engines more reliable and efficient than ever.
Will air travel always be a hassle? CNN's Richard Quest explores what's in store for the future of airports.
Will batteries ever become a leading power source? CNN takes a look at innovations powering the battery of the future.
Moving to Mars, he says, could involve thousands of rockets at an amazingly low cost: under $500,000. Keep in mind the Apollo moon-shot totaled an estimated $110 billion in today's dollars.
Cars
Transportation matters. Experts say finding smarter ways to travel will generate more business and improve more people's quality of life.
More and more people are expected to live in cities in the coming decades. More people equals more traffic jams. More traffic equals more air pollution from vehicle exhaust.
These things are pushing experts to rethink how we use cars to get around town. In the near future, the "automobile will be more of a service than it is today," says Maggie Hendrie of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. "The car can come pick you up. It will be customized to your preferences. The vehicle is interconnected to an ecosystem of digital devices."
Airports
What about flying?
New airports are in the works around the world. They'll include technology that will get us on and off planes faster and safer. Bigger and more efficient are the watchwords for the airports of the 21st century, experts say.
Mexico City's new facility is slated for completion by 2020. It's designed to make traveling better for passengers and the environment.
mexico airport
Set to open in 2020, Mexico City's new airport aims to make traveling better for passengers and the environment.
Space planes
So-called scramjet technology could make that dream a reality. Scramjet engines could propel aircraft as fast as 15 times the speed of sound, according to NASA. Unlike conventional jet engines, scramjet engines have virtually no moving parts. And unlike rockets, scramjet engines would burn oxygen from the atmosphere instead of having to carry heavy tanks full of oxygen.
A UK-based outfit called Reaction Engines has been working on a passenger aircraft called the A2, which would fly five times the speed of sound.
Designed by UK-based engineers Reaction Engines Ltd, the Skylon project is a radical idea for future space travel.
Designed by UK-based engineers Reaction Engines Ltd, the Skylon project is a radical idea for future space travel.
Trains
Trains are on track to move crazy-fast.
By the end of 2015, a super-fast Eurostar train called the e320 is expected to rocket people from London -- under the English Channel -- and on to Brussels and Paris at speeds around 200 mph (320 kilometers per hour.)
That'll blow your hair back.
In the U.S., private investors have spent $40 million and applied for permits to build a 300-mile-per-hour train that floats above its rails by using the power of magnets.
So-called maglev technology uses powerful, electrically charged magnets to suspend the train midair inside a U-shaped guide rail built on either side of the track. The magnets both lift the train and propel it forward, with the reduced friction being responsible for the train's super speed.
The first stage of the plan calls for constructing a 38-mile rail line from Baltimore's airport to downtown Washington within the next 10 years. Backers envision the train moving from D.C. all the way to Manhattan.
Compare that to Amtrak's Acela Express -- a rail service capable of speeds up to 150 mph that shoot riders from New York to Washington in about 96 minutes.
In the Lone Star State, the Texas Central Railway has a plan for a high-speed train that would bridge the 240 miles between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes. Top speed: around 220 mph.
If all goes as planned, the train would be running by 2020, according to organizers.
Star Trek 'transporter'
Now, just for fun, let's consider a few wild ideas.
One's called "Shweeb."
It's a system of personal, pedal-powered monorail pods designed as an alternative form of urban transit.
With Shweeb, pods hang from an elevated track that, theoretically, would stretch to destinations throughout a city.
With Shweeb, pods hang from an elevated track that, theoretically, would stretch to destinations throughout a city.
With Shweeb, pods hang from an elevated track that, theoretically, would stretch to destinations throughout a city.
shweeb holding limited
Does it sound too silly to take seriously? Not for Google, which awarded Shweeb $1 million for research and development.
Wanna think even FURTHER outside the box? Believe it or not, scientists have been talking about technology that sounds like the transporter from TV's "Star Trek."
In 2007, scientists indicated to CNN that someday it might be possible to scan a person using some advanced form of the technology used to perform MRI scans, and transmit that scanned information somewhere else -- using normal electrical or sound signals -- where it would then be reassembled into an approximation of the original.
But there will always be skeptics, like Valerie Jamieson, physics editor of New Scientist Magazine. "I really don't think it is ever going to happen," she says. "Then again, one thing I've learned is never to underestimate the ingenuity of physicists, so never say never."