Powered transportation was developed less than 250 years ago, but it is hard to imagine life before ships, trains, cars and planes.
– the first steamship was built in the 1770s
– the first steam powered train was in 1798
– the modern car was 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 life 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 just walked or rode a camel. It 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 they did what they needed 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 adaptation of modern transportation, the standard of living of people around the world has exploded. This was because of the relative ease, safety, reliability, convenience and speed of being able to get goods from one place to another. For the first time, trade expanded beyond a few day’s journey by camel. Goods could be shipped around the world and traded for other products — Adam Smith’s Comparative Advantage in practice.
Just as ships & trains could cover long distances in days instead of the months it took by camel, by the mid 1900s, planes could cover the same distances in only hours. In just a few decades, by the 1960s, aviation was the preferred way of getting across the country and to Europe. Faster and faster planes carrying more and more people for reasonable airfares helped people see, explore and invest around the globe. The ability to get from A to B in just hours enabled Federal Express and others to offer overnight delivery services.
With each advancement in transportation technology, the standard of living has improved for almost everyone around the world. The flip side is that transportation is a key element to globalization and the negative impact it has had on some regions. While those concerns need to be addressed, many more communities enjoy the positive 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. That means more people get to see 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 do a weekend trip around the globe and be back in time for work Monday morning.
This is exciting.