Travelling in a Pure Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics System

This post focuses on travel slightly further in the
future than the mixed SRCMR/old school system I write
about in “Travelling in a Self-Reconfiguring World”.
Below I will describe how we will travel in a system built
entirely with modules.

The flexibility of SRCMR will drastically change the way we travel.
It will make travel and transportation much more convenient,
efficient, reliable, environmentally friendly and safe.

It will also allow us to go where older systems cannot take us.

There are two basic modes of travel in this system.
One when you travel together with others between major
hubs at busy times.

The second mode is when you travel on your own, between
less popular destinations or at less popular times.

When you travel together with other people and goods,
you will use an infrastructure of units that simply
pass you along by handing your travel cocoon of
modules over from one module to another in a long chain.
You will simply glide along in your travel cocoon as if
you were carried by a long line of conveyor belts,
one after another. I call this the Conduit.

When you need to go to places that are unique to you,
you will do so in a vehicle built with modules.
The SRCMR vehicle doesn’t look at all like the car today.
In fact, it has no permanent look at all, as few SRCMR
solutions do, because the whole point of SRCMR is that
it can become whatever you need in a specific situation.

The vehicle naturally changes both shape and the way it locomotes
or what the scientists call “the gait” to what is best at
any given time.

There are many different forms of locomotion, all suited for
different terrains or situations you may encounter. Some
examples of locomotion that can be used are wheels of different
sizes and styles, legs, caterpillar tracks, slithering like
a snake, or it could even ooze like slime. In this gait,
modules are moved from the rear end of the solution to
the front end one by one until the whole setup has moved.

All of these options in one vehicle makes it able to go
virtually anywhere and with very high efficiency.

To distinguish it from the Conduit, I call this mode the
Traverser, as it does just that, it traverses terrain.

Both these new “all modules based” ways to travel have significant
advantages over both the “old old” way we are used to now, and the
“new old” way where we combine SRCMR and existing infrastructure.
Because it uses only modules, it gets the full benefit of
self-reconfiguring modular robotics.

Beyond those benefits that are common to all SRCMR solutions,
comes the ones that are unique to travel and transport.

The Conduit will be much safer as it is one coherent system,
not many independent parts, neither physically nor control wise.
It creates a private physical space and keeps control of
all parts at all times. This will make it possible to avoid
many of the accidents caused by current vehicles. The vehicles
we know are separate from the road or track and have no control of
the space they operate in or information about the actions of other
parts of the system, or possible intrusions from outside the system.
All these aspects contribute to a higher likelihood of accidents
compared to the Conduit.

The Conduit also has the potential to use no or very little
fossil fuel, as electrical power can be used and is distributed
the same way as in any SRCMR solution.

When the Conduit is used for more intense traffic,
it can integrate well in the landscape it operates in.
It could even be made to move so that the same route is not
used all the time depending on specific factors in the environment.

In urban landscapes, the fact that the Conduit is a closed
system will be important from a noise pollution point of view.
On the outside, the conduit could be made silent.
This allows it to operate in densely populated areas without
being a nuisance like current roads and trains are.
The outside can also be adapted visually to blend in with
its surroundings. This might be a minor thing, but blending
into its surroundings is something current modes of
transportation cannot be said to do.

A benefit when using the more flexible Traverser mode, is that
it does not need any prepared roads, even though it benefits
from them where they are available. This means that the impact
on the land traversed will likely be small in most situations.

For the traveller, both the Transverser and the Conduit,
will offer significant improvements over the first version
of SRCMR based travel, and of course over old-school
travel too.

It will be able to traverse much more varied terrain,
and thus allow you to go to more locations.
It will be much more flexible as to the size and
shape of the space you travel in, or of the goods
that are transported, and it will offer a smoother
and more comfortable ride. For instance in the Conduit,
the system knows ahead of time what turns and other
adjustments that might be necessary, and can adapt
to them in a better way for a smoother ride.

It will also dramatically increase the capacity on
routes that are used intensely. Again, it can do so
because the Conduit is one coherent system and not
many separate systems acting independently.
Current highway systems have a usage of less than 5%,
mostly due to the necessary distance between vehicles
that will not be needed in the Conduit. It will also
be easier to use traffic that is stacked on top of each
other rather than one after each other, as many smaller
cocoons that are going to the same destination can be
assembled into an ad hoc super cocoon, making the
conduit a 3D system.

I think these changes to the way we travel in the future,
with a slightly longer time perspective, will change how
we live our lives. I will write more about those changes
in future posts.

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