Self-powered transportation was developed less than 250 years ago, but it is hard to imagine life before ships, trains, cars, and airplanes. Some major transporation milestones include:
- The first steamship, built in the 1770s
- The first steam-powered train, in 1798
- The modern car, born in 1886
- The first powered flight, in 1903
We rapidly adopted these technologies into our lives, and have become completely dependent on our vehicles to sustain our lifestyles and economies. We need our cars to get to work, trucks to ship products, and planes to go on vacation. It is impossible to imagine our world without modern transportation – life as we know it would come to a screeching halt.
Yet, we know that people did get around, albeit slower, before modern transportation. They simply walked or rode on an animal like a camel. This wasn’t convenient, fast, reliable, safe, or even comfortable. In most cases, you could only go 20 miles a day and carry a limited amount on your back or on the pack animal. But people did what they needed in order to get from one village to the next, so they could trade goods or get to places with better food or water supplies.
Something amazing happened starting in the late 1700s – with the adoption of modern transportation, standards of living of people around the world radically increased. This was because of the relative ease, safety, reliability, convenience, and speed of moving goods from one place to another. For the first time, trade expanded beyond the distance one could travel in a few days’ journey by camel. Goods could be shipped around the world and traded for other products – David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage in practice.
Just as ships and trains could cover long distances in days instead of the months these trips took by camel, by the mid-1900s, planes could cover the same distances in mere hours. In just a few decades, by the 1960s, aviation was the preferred way of getting across the US and abroad to Europe. Faster and faster planes carrying more and more people – for reasonable airfares – helped us to travel, explore, and invest around the globe. The ability to get from A to B in just hours also enabled Federal Express and others to offer overnight delivery services for the first time.
With each advancement in transportation technology, the standard of living has improved for almost everyone around the world. The flip side, however, is that transportation is a key element of globalization – and the negative impact it has had on some regions. While those concerns do need to be addressed, many more communities enjoy the benefits of transportation, and their lives are enriched by it.
I believe that supersonic transportation will have an equally astounding impact on the world. Flight times will be reduced by 50%, bringing the world much closer together and making destinations more accessible in a shorter amount of travel time. This means that more people will get to visit and explore more of the world.
What it also means is that investors can visit destinations that they wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Businesses can manage global operations better, and spend more time with their customers. Vacationers can take a weekend trip around the globe and be back in time for work on Monday morning.
This is truly an exciting time in the history of transportation.