As the world continues to evolve, so does man and his ways of living and traveling. From walking barefoot to riding on animals, to finally getting on mechanized transportation systems.
For a time, the development of the modes of transportation that are focused on safety, for humans and also for transporting precious cargo, and speed. Finally, our social evolution has led us to review our activities concerning our environment. And our transportation concern has come to the point where we question their efficiency in using up our limited resources. We look at their emissions, their efficient fuel management system, and even the number of persons a vehicle could take.
Let’s take a brief look at how the different modes of transportation evolved over the years and where this could be heading.
Taking off on January 1, 1914, a Benoist airboat takes the prestige of being the first commercial flight. The route was from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida USA. Although it remained in service for only a short time, it had been the first step to what we now have — long-haul flights, taking people and goods from one continent to another.
The airplane is among the environmentalists’ favorite culprits for carbon emissions. These planes are powered by petroleum-based fuels. For every kilogram of fuel, 3.15kg of carbon dioxide is produced. In 2018 data, carbon emissions from airplanes account for 2.5% of the global emissions. The airplane, however, is still the most logical transportation for most travelers as it is still the fastest, even with the revolutionary bullet train around.
Most of the world’s businesses rely on marine transportation. An estimated ten billion tonnes of cargo is moved across countries and continents every year over the waters.
The earliest ships were believed to be navigated by the Austronesian people and had sails made of leaves. Almost concurrently, Egyptians were also developing their ships, still making use of plant parts. From these humble origins, we now have submersibles used to study the depths of the ocean and destroyer warships.
Although ships are believed to be more environmentally-friendly compared to airplanes, they are not exempted from carbon emissions. Additionally, disastrous oil spills in the past, whether they were caused by leaks in cargo or the sinking of ships, have substantially affected marine ecosystems.
In recent years, ships have also become luxury vacation venues. Cruise Ships accommodate thousands of people per year, going around countries and islands. And in their wake are tons of waste released into the ocean.
The different land transportation options have different environmental impacts as well as varied safety levels.
The most efficient of them is rail transport considering its speed, the number of passengers it could carry, and the distance it could travel. The earliest version could be the man or animal-pulled carts in ancient times that followed grooves. They could not leave these grooves, which are the first version of rail tracks.
Over the years, these evolved into wooden tracks and finally the metal tracks that we know. The first use of these railways had not been to transport people. The wooden tracks were widely used in mines in the 16th century. Later on, these started to carry humans. But the train systems as we know today had only started to exist when the steam engine was used to power wheels. This greatly revolutionized the transport system, the trains now capable of running fast with a substantial load of cargo or passengers.
Presently, the trains are considered the second safest means of transportation with only a few occasions of accidents. As these follow tracks and time schedules, collision is not likely. When they break down, they simply delay passengers. Fuel efficiency in diesel locomotives has also decreased its environmental impact.
Motor vehicles, which include cars, buses, and the like, developed in parallel to the train system. While steel using wheels, cars ran on roads and could be directed to different directions instead of tracks. The precursor of modern cars could be the horse-drawn chariots and carriages of the olden days. Considered the most dangerous means of transportation, their safety depends on several external factors — road conditions, drivers, and the vehicle’s built.
Eco-friendly versions of cars have been developed. The small two-seater smart cars run on minimal electricity and take up little space on the road. As people are preferring vehicles with the least carbon emissions, these electricity-powered vehicles will eventually become more popular.
Developments in transportation, whether it is by land, sea, or air, will always have an impact on all people’s lives. Our attitude towards traveling, conducting business, and even socialization could change with the convenience or discomfort of our transport.