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Coach of the Future

Coach of the Future

Automotive technology is a fast-moving industry, and coach travel is not immune from the leaps forward that are seen year-in and year-out. The continuing controversy surrounding the costly development of rail project HS2 could drive more people than ever to the coach for their intercity travel needs. But what will they be met with? To find out what might be in store for those boarding the coach of the future, we asked a collection of futurists and experts in the industry what they thought. We also threw a few outrageous predictions of our own in. Based on research-led predictions of what the coach of the future may look like by 2040, we worked with artist Muti to bring this to life.

FUELLING AND DRIVING

 

Advances in automotive engineering mean the mechanics of the coach will rapidly change over the next 20 years – beginning with power. The car and public transport industries are quickly moving towards renewable, sustainable energy sources, and coaches will be no different - as business and technology author Eric Sutherland pointed out:

“An all-electric engine, powered by a battery bank with a Stirling Engine Charger, will ensure that coaches are run on green energy sources, reducing their carbon emissions and increasing the sustainability of the entire industry for years to come.”

Christopher Burdick from Gearhead Media goes a step further, introducing the self-charging coach:

“The coach of the future should be able to charge itself even when on the move. We imagine most of the power coming from the sun as the body panels absorb the heat and radiation, once we get more efficient at harnessing solar energy.”

UK roads forbid the driving of any vehicle without someone behind the wheel, meaning the coach of the future will still always have a driver present. However, autonomous technology will have made great strides come 2040. G2 Crowd’s Alan Santillan expects some autonomous technology to have made it into coach travel:

“With the development of self-driving cars inching ever closer, the multitude of cameras on these vehicles will see a wider range of uses in the future.

“In terms of Augmented Reality, coaches of the future will be able to map out large portions of their visual range for passengers in order to provide the safest possible driving experience. “

The megabus of the future is also able put an end to pesky traffic, swiftly getting everyone to their destination. With our extendable legs, the coach can rise above the traffic and drive directly over it. 

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BOARDING

 

Safety is a central concern in the development of coach travel, for passengers and staff alike. Joshua Feinberg, president of DCSMI, thinks lifting heavy luggage will soon be completed by machines:

“Loading luggage on and off the coach will become automated, increasing staff safety by reducing the number of back injuries they sustain.”

 

Harnessing existing mobile technology for better customer experience is a central theme running through the coach of the future. Before you even board the coach, the smartphone in your pocket is working to make your journey as seamless as possible.

“From a customer-facing side, ticketless travel is next up on the docket.” Vincent Panico from Moo Moo Networks told us.

“As a customer with a smartphone that has the relevant ticket passes through the doors, their presence is detected, and their virtual ticket is automatically punched.”

 

INTERIOR

 

For the interior of the coach, we’ve added some more of our own thoughts on what could be on the horizon. Rather than the traditional row of seats you see in today’s coach travel, we’ve imagined each passenger in their individual pod, full of technologies to keep them occupied on their journey (more on that in the next section). For truly peaceful travel, each pod has its own door for getting on and off the coach.

Advancements in coach and road safety will bridge the gap between coach and train travel, allowing passengers to move around at their own leisure and undergo a variety of activities.

To the back of the coach are business pods, allowing those travelling professionally to be productive on their journey. At the front is a bar, serving hot and cold drinks and food throughout the journey.

Coaches will also be better at meeting your health and lifestyle needs. Our coach of the future as an onboard gym bike, with the energy you generate going straight to the coach’s battery. When you’re done, head off to the onboard shower to remain fresh for the remainder of the journey.

Ensuring each passenger has a smooth and enjoyable journey will be robot staff, equipped with advanced artificial intelligence. Able to communicate, take orders and fulfil them, we’ve depicted our very own Sid going about his work on the coach.

Passengers will be connected throughout their journey from start to finish.

“The main new technologies that will be integrated into the coach will be around seamlessly connecting the coach with the outside world. This not only includes communicating road conditions to smart cities and other cars, but also being fully connected to passengers and their home.” Skiplist’s Fahad Shoukat discussed the impact of a fully integrated network of IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

What this means is that the coach, and the robot staff onboard, already know a number of your journey preferences before you get on board. They know your food and drink preferences, favourite new album and ideal movie choice – information that your smartphone has shared with the vehicle.

Once your journey is complete, the coach’s integrated technology can communicate with your end destination.

“The restaurant or hotel you’re travelling to can see your GPS location and knows your ETA. Their AI-driven robot will handle advanced meal orders at your destination. So regardless of whether you want chicken, fish, beef, or a kid's meal, you can have the meal waiting for you at the perfect temperature, on the table, when you arrive.”

If you’re travelling home, the coach communicates with your smart-home devices to prepare for your arrival – switching on the central heating and preparing a chill-out playlist after a long day.

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PASSENGER PODS

 

Inside each passenger’s individual pod, a whole host of technological treats await you. For starters, boredom on long, country-spanning journeys will be a thing of the past. Virtual Reality entertainment is only just arriving in the mainstream but come 2040 the coach of the future will be kitted out with a headset for each passenger.

VR won’t just be for films and games however, as Joshua Feinberg suggests:

“A wireless headset system acts initially as your onboard tour guide, letting you know about what you're driving by and where you're driving towards – it can even prompt you to take pictures or videos on your device when you drive past notable locations.

“It will know your age, interests, and preferred language – and customise the details to your preferences automatically.”

This can be a particularly powerful tool if travelling with children.

“It will also sense when kids of various ages seem bored and shake things up with location-specific interactive games and virtual reality video experiences.”

Look to your window, and a digitised display keeps you up to date with appropriate information – as futurist Micah Redding predicts:

“Coaches will become the ultimate mobile theatre, with windows becoming capable of projecting immersive images and video. Passengers will use this for extending their experience of what's going on around them — overlaying various information from the coach’s system and the wider internet”

Examples of this might be the latest weather, a map with remaining travel time, or the latest news and sports headlines.  

Safety will also be an important part of the passenger pods. Autohausaz’s Antony Kane explained how this might be done:

“I believe one of the biggest components coaches of the future will possess are related to our health and wellbeing. Active health monitoring within vehicles will be a standard in 20 years. Having a seat belt, seat cushion or steering wheel that can track vital health statistics.”

We’re ending this voyage into the coach of the future in complete comfort. Built into your chair is your very own masseuse, meaning you can receive a bespoke massage all the way to your destination.  

 

What would you like to see in 2040’s coach of the future? Head to social media to give us your suggestions @megabusuk.

 

Published on 19th March 2019

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