A world without trucks?

CargoCap_Halle_460 Trucks are noisy, smelly, intimidating if you’re in a small car, and just generally a nuisance. So why not get rid of them? Transport your goods instead via automated subterranean networks. (Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Sound a little kooky? Maybe, but:

Some Western European countries are getting serious about transporting consumer goods through automated subterranean networks – introducing a fifth transport mode next to road, rail, air and water. This rare combination of low-tech sense and high-tech knowledge could lead to a further economic growth without destroying the environment and the quality of life. Super fast underground cargo transport is a favourite subject of futurologists. Yet, the key to the feasibility of the proposed systems is their very low but constant speed.

The goods would be transported via electric motors at low speeds of under 35 kilometres per hour along what would essentially be an automated subway line. Belgium, Germany and Holland have all explored or are exploring the possibility:

In Belgium, the University of Antwerp designed and proposed an underground logistic system that would transport large 40-ft containers from the newly built container dock in the harbour to an existing marshalling yard and a planned inland navigation hub on the other bank of the river…

In Germany, the Ruhr University of Bochum is working on a rather different concept, called the CargoCap project. The German system is designed for much smaller loads and makes use of unmanned electric vehicles on rails that travel through pipelines with a diameter of only 1.6 metres. Each vehicle, called a ‘Cap’, is designed for the transportation of two European standard pallets…

The German system resembles research that was conducted in Holland almost ten years ago. The Dutch then investigated the possibility of an underground logistic network that spanned the whole country…with one hub for every 1,000 to 5,000 homes, which boiled down to a maximum walking distance of 750 meters to pick up goods…

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: the biggest problem will be the initial cost. The proposed Dutch network would have cost 60 billion Euros ten years ago. Which is why nothing more has been done on it. But the German and Belgian systems might actually come to fruition…and make a little more room on the roads.

And after all, it’s not as if something like this has never been done.

(Image: CargoCap.)