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It will be a major revolution to see an invention that existed for many thousands of years disappear in the far future.

I think that levitating and hovering technologies will make the wheel obsolete in the far future but what will be these technologies?

I think the first candidate to make wheel a thing of past will be the room temperature superconductors. They could make hovering cars a reality as there are trains that float little above the ground with Maglev technology. If superconductors were at room temperature they could be everywhere. Everything that needs wheels and supports to move around would no longer need them and would hover around through electromagnetic currents.

The other technology could be electromagnetic propulsion/repulsion . They could enable flying cars that wouldn't have wheels and flying/floating objects that would use electromagnetic fields and waves to float or hover above the ground. This makes sense since electromagnetism is much stronger than gravity.

The other technology that might become possible in the far future is antigravity. However most people think that antigravity is impossible and will never become reality.(But that is an issue for another thread). Antigravity could make things float and fly magically as if they weren't being attracted by Earth's gravity.

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    $\begingroup$ You mean the wheel specifically in transportation, or all kind of wheels in fans, turbines, electric motors etc? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 10 '20 at 4:27
  • $\begingroup$ Working in a power out environment, or trying to go off roading will demonstrate the shortcomings of alternatives which do not use wheels.... $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Mar 10 '20 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the wheel could be obsolete in everything. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '20 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ This is based on a couple of misunderstandings. 1) Maglev vehicles need two parts: one on the vehicle, one fixed to the ground. Just like ordinary magnets, like poles of the magnets repel each other, which allows the levitation effect. The magnets won't repel ordinary ground, so your maglev vehicle only goes where there are prepared tracks. 2) Any levitation just goes up, you still need some way of applying force parallel to the ground in order to move. Wheels do this nicely. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 10 '20 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ This is an open ended question, as such not suited for this community. We are not a forum. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 10 '20 at 5:55
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Talk about having the worlds largest power bill. Maglev and Electromagnets operate on the same priciple, and using superconductors is going to be so insanely expensive (There is 33 billion meters of road) that you might as well build proper space elevators and use rockets to travel.

The simple issue is, there is nothing quite as effective, cheap and all purpose as having a wheel on your vehicles.

Positives:

  • Works off road and on road
  • Requires no power
  • Inexpensive compared to maglev and super conductors
  • Easy for a normal person to replace (with some training)

Situations where wheels are better:

  • If there is a black out
  • In a natural disaster
  • After an earthquake
  • Parking on a hill
  • When you just have enough money to make rent and don't want to spend money to keep your car levitating
  • When you want lower taxes, because everyone needs to contribute to the electricity bill to keep all the roads on 24/7
  • If you don't to make all small electronics basically float or melt

There is one scenario I know of where maglev technologies would be good and thats

  • If you want to go very very very fast in a single direction

If you want to counter point all these arguments, there is still one factor you can't beat. Cost.

Wheels are simply cheaper no matter what you do. The only thing cheaper than free electricity is requiring no electricity. Rubber is naturally cheaper than any superconductors or electromagnets and the tires won't need to be connected to the grid.

So wheels themselves will never be made redundant. That doesn't mean the super rich can't also have their own floating cars (essentially private planes).

=== Expanding why it costs a lot ===

Electromagnets are expensive in general. It requires a lot of wiring and metal in general and you need to make sure everything is robust enough to handle basic damage. Thats people dropping things on it. Car crashes. Thunder strike resistance. Then there are the two biggest issues are Heat changes (Winter and summer temperature differences) which will cause the material the expand and shrink and Water/Rain. Making things "Proof-able" is expensive in general. You need to cover 33 billion meters of road (the current amount of road) + All driveways, dirt roads, country tracks etc. This is compared to the current model of sticking 4 wheels and a spare one onto a car.

Manufacturing costs and material costs wont reduce just because its the "Future". People need to get paid to extract, manufacture and install these things. The cost of replacing 33 Billions meters of road with essentially metal isn't going to beat the current cost of 0. Because we don't need to replace anything right now.

Super Conductors are also expensive. Even if they work at room temperature. Your talking about a Non-Existent material being cost effective verses a Current, Widely available and Cheap material. Heck, it might even be renewable now that we can literally make it out of plants. Even if you throw in 300 years, you seem to think that the price of rubber and plastic won't go down in time along with the cost of the ceramics used to construct your super conductors. Your talking about the assembly of multiple materials at a scale so large the world can't even deal with it in its current shape.

So yes. Steel now-a-days is cheaper than it was 300 years. Largely due to improvements in manufacturing and mining. Duh... 300 years. By that metric, rubber has become even cheaper. Being virtually none existent, to being so abundant we can literally throw away a countries size worth and just let it sit there.

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    $\begingroup$ Maglev and Electromagnets ... using superconductors is going to be so insanely expensive - why? What if the discovery of room temperature superconductivity is gonna results in a quite inexpensive material? (not likely but, base on what we know, not impossible either). Not like the steel in the current rails was cheap in the 18th century, but here we are 300 years later. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '20 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ Today we build cars out of steel, 300 years ago we build carriages out of wood. Tar covered roads with steel/ concrete bridges are better than wooden bridges and cobble stone streets, even though they are more expensive. Future technology materials will start out expensive but they will become relatively cheaper and if they are better than the old material at the job they will replace the old material. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Mar 10 '20 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @quarague: Re building cars out of steel, not entirely. You can still buy cars made mostly of wood, e.g. cnet.com/roadshow/pictures/morgan-factory-tour I happen to own one that's mostly aluminum, and others use various composites. And for going off-road, horses do have considerable advantages over wheeled vehicles. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 11 '20 at 18:21
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Personally, I can't think of any technologies that you haven't mentioned, except maybe drones, though I think you underestimate how attached humanity is to the wheel.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think we are "attached" to them. It's not that we have some emotional investment. Wheels just happen to be very effective at their job. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 10 '20 at 5:21
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Fusion power - or a really light, cheap, easy and reliable energy source

Firstly, in order to do the technologies you have, you must first have a power source that is light in weight, uses fuel that is cheap, is completely reliable and inexpensive to make. It needs to be safe, and simple enough.

Fusion power could fit the bill here - if we can figure out how to make 'micro' fusion generators we would then be able to generate power and actually be quite 'wasteful' about it.

The issue is the wheel is incredibly useful - in order to replace it we need to have methods to perform its functions with almost reckless ubiquity. A hovercraft or superconductor or antigravity, no matter the tech, would require lots of power and this is the first hurdle.

The second hurdle is manufacturing ability - you need to be able to make machines and their power source with no effort at all. This enables everything from simple kids toys to cars, to trains, to lunar rovers, to be so effortlessly created that it is actually more effort to use a wheel.

Only then would wheels be outdated.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it's more a case of 'even then wheels wouldn't be outdated' : if it uses less power, less resources & is more convenient (& in your scenario the wheel would still qualify in all those areas) then it will still be used. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Mar 10 '20 at 16:02

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