Josh Kramer

A comic artist’s take on what the future of transportation might really feel like.

What will the transportation modes of the future feel like? Will they be utopian like Tomorrowland, with glittering, quiet, and miraculous vehicles; or gritty and dangerous, as in Blade Runner? Our lived experience in the future might be more banal: When commuters can fly over the city in an autonomous electric air taxi or hurtle across the country in a high-speed maglev train, they’ll still be worrying about whether they’re running late.

This cartoon is a vision of the reality of future-commuting across a megalopolis full of wondrous transportation technology. From the never-landing airships to the anti-spill cup holders, as many details as possible are taken from imaginative essays and promotional materials about the near-future. Most of this technology, and these headaches, already exist.

Technology won’t change everything. From ancient Rome to the present day, the transit ideas that shaped cities tended to enable a half-hour commute. Will that ideal hold for urban planning’s future as distances and speeds increase? Questions about equity are also here to stay: Who provides transit, and who gets to use it?

Recently as I was walking in my neighborhood, an autonomous car sidled up to me. It was a tricky intersection: a two-way stop that can be hazardous to cross. But the test vehicle was unfazed. As it nosed into the crosswalk and turned, I watched the steering wheel spin beneath the “driver’s” hovering, motionless fingers.

Is this what utopia looks like?

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