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I'm writing a mental health dystopia set in the not-so-distant future. I've included hovercars, but I'm looking for another transportation means that is faster and not as cliché. The ideal system should be a network with the capacity to be hacked (this is integral to the storyline). I've considered teleportation, but I'd prefer something scientifically probable and not too complex to justify. Anything with psychological basis would be helpful as the book has a strong theme of psychology.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello Theresa, welcome to worldbuilding, It's a "virtual" certainty that you'll find a satisfactory answer to this. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 3:46

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Hyperloop

The hyperloop system are transport pods to transport trains in tubes. One of the most energy consuming parts of travel is resistance from the air. To remove this as much as possible, the tubes are sucked to practically a vacuum. This allows for incredible speeds of travel. Although currently speeds between 1000 and 1300 km/h (about 700 to 800 mph) are quoted as maximum speeds, a lot depends on the propulsion technology as well as how sharp the bends are. In a futuristic setting, they might go much faster. They are meant to be (near) fully autonomous, able to communicate with each pod in the tube and move accordingly. In the future there might be some leeway to have tubes split so they can go high speed into different directions, allowing for further travel options.

The hyperloop would be for travelling great distances in short time, but you still need to go to the station as well as your final destination with different transport. You could make the pods themselves able to go out of the tube and be fully autonomous driving pods on the normal road, driven by computers/AI. Autonomous cars are definitely the future, able to communicate with each other and autonomously move over the road, removing the need for all traffic lights and other traffic regulation measures, with possible exceptions for pedestrian crossings.

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  • $\begingroup$ Me, scrolling through the answers: "Hyperloop...hyperloop....ah! Hyperloop." +1 $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Jun 11, 2021 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ Well, that was before I noticed the "psychological" side-bar. But "futuristic" and "scientifically probable"? Hard to beat vacuum-tube maglev. For the psychological side, possibly consider the claustrophobia and feeling of isolation if one were to be travelling in a one-man pod in a dark, underground tunnel. Such an experience could possibly be triggering for different mental health conditions... $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Jun 11, 2021 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Qami agreed. I chose this as the psychology is only a 'nice to have' and not mandatory. I totally agree being in a small pod, going unimaginable speeds through a dark, airless tunnel where you have no control over has all kinds of psychological implications, but I decided not to add it. In the end they are not much different than fear of elevators or the like. But as one answer goes, transmitting minds is something else completely and very psychological. Just a different level. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ Hyperloop is an extremely impractical method of transit unfortunately, maintaining km vacuum tube with stations, emergency exits, clearance for rescue vehicles, and so on, and you have a lot of points of failure for something that will immediately kill all its passengers if it fails. Even expecting it to transport a lot of people is asking a lot, if you start turning it into a train, it loses economy of scale, so you might as well just build high-speed rail, it'd be safer and far cheaper. If you're looking for infrastructure that is vulnerable to many forms of attack though, this is it $\endgroup$
    – Zer0ah
    Jun 11, 2021 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Hyperloop is more of a mass transit from station to station rather than from front door to destination. And it seems to be more likely as a long distance travel, as the difference of speed between a normal subway and a hyperloop over short distances just really isn't that great. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 21:48
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Downloading

It is impossible for humans to travel at lightspeed. No matter how much we try, doing so would cost more energy than exists in the universe and we would go slower than light speed. However, if we digitize the human consciousness then we can instead download into new bodies at the speed of light.

There can only be one

To ensure there is no duplication and there is continuity, once the process is complete, the old body has all the information deleted. If you travel from your body your main memory is made so it doesn't form memories.

Are you sure you want to delete the file You.conciousness?

However, this creates a problem, if you fail to download properly, but send the "download complete" message, then the old body deletes the data. This means the most current version is the only reliable version, even if there is packet loss. This means that if it is hacked you can kill, or do major mental damage, to the person in transit. Because of this the "download complete" message is incredibly secure. It is basically impossible to forge the message.

Two solutions

  1. The message is not as secure as we thought
  2. Duplicate hack

The message is not as secure as we thought.

A flaw in the security system is found and now download complete messages can be sent by man in the middle attacks. Because of this people will either die or suffer from memory or other cognition loss.

Duplicate hack

While it is impossible to forge the message it is possible to ensure that the message is not received, and interfere with checksums on the data transfer. At this point you have two options, have two duplicates walk around or suspend both person's activities. In the best case scenario this would minorly inconvenience a large community for a day and then a month until the problem could be fixed. in the worst case scenario some people would use months or even years if the person who downloaded couldn't be confirmed to be fully downloaded.

Downloading is fast, easy, and convenient

Just don't lose your head.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the IT-pun Just don't lose your head $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ this idea is great, I want to add I read a manga where this is kind of implemented, but not in the form of computers where minds are uploaded from one android to another, but with giant tentacle-plant-like creatures who "clone" the body at a different place. depending on what your intention is, this would give the world a more "biomutagene" touch, but ultimately results in the same: read in the old organism one cell at a time, print it out at a different place, if all cells and neurones are copied 1 to 1, you have an exact copy. might work with giant 3d printers as well $\endgroup$
    – user59660
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ also, there is another option for a hack: after starting to upload human.mind, your connection gets redirected, or even swapped, resulting in [the protagonist?] waking up in someone else's body while his own got hijacked by jakuza/military/illuminaty $\endgroup$
    – user59660
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ This idea is the core of Altered Carbon; definitely worth a read/watch. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 11, 2021 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ and eclipse phase $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Jun 11, 2021 at 20:35
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You might want to check out "The Roads Must Roll", a short story by Robert Heinlein. The Roads Must Roll

He describes a transportation network based on moving walkways, but walkways moving at speeds up to 100mph.

A variant on @Graham's idea would be individual air transport, where rush hour traffic is guided by swarm intelligence and forms, well, a swarm, or a murmuration. I can imagine an ambulance or a renegade driver driving through the middle causing not chaos, but synchronous patterns across the sky as each member of the swarm reacts to the movements of its neighbours.

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  • $\begingroup$ Moving sidewalks are definitely futuristic! Just wondering practically how a person might be able to keep their balance while going at such speeds? Maybe gravity or magnetic stimulation of some sort is necessary. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Also featured in many of Asimov’s works, such as Caves of Steel. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 11, 2021 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TheresaKay the simplest solution would probably be to use moving guardrails like an escalator, though given the speeds involved you would probably want to have the "walls" move as well. (not a native english speaker, is guardrail the right word here? I'm talking about the things you rest your hands on/use to keep your balance on stairs/escalators) $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Cassiterite that makes sense. Moving walls could probably work. Maybe handrails is the correct term? I'd imagine something similar to the moving walkways you see in airports. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2021 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ Heinlein had fixed installations on the walkways that protected from the speed of the air. Walls and also buildings such as coffee shops, as I recall. You went from slower tracks on the outside to faster ones within. When switching tracks you would only experience a wind in the difference of speeds, so maybe 5mph rather than the full 100mph. $\endgroup$
    – AlDante
    Jun 14, 2021 at 10:40
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Hive mind drones.

Drones are finding more and more applications while still depending, in most of the cases, on a human operator, and if they are given sufficient computing power to autonomously manage their flight and flight plan with respect to their surrounding, they would start behaving like a swarm or a flock.

Now you can imagine what would happen if somebody messed up with those computers: Hitchcock's the birds 2.0

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the transport is mainly meant for people. Add the large personal drones for transport. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jun 11, 2021 at 6:05
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Gravity Folding

I think that the obvious solution here is to use gravity to fold space to make two points one. Public stations would be available which would consist of a series of sending and receiving booths so you could dial your destination, hit a button and you would be instantly there as space itself is folded over.

This removes the messy conundrum of "Aren't we just dying every time we use this thing?" you get with transporters. You are actually physically moving there in your own original body. It's instantaneous and energy efficient.

Now, mind you that you have to wear your sensory deprivation helmet and make sure it is sealed and the white noise generators active, as well as the farraday cage being properly maintained since the shortcut through space sort of leads through Hell as shown in the documentary Event Horizon, but that is a small price to pay for cheap, environmentally friendly instant transportation right?

Surely the fact that even if everything goes right you are surrounded by a plain of infinite suffering and evil every time you pop on down to work wouldn't weigh on people. And certainly the corporation who gets their bid accepted because it is the lowest wouldn't cut any corners on the construction of the safety equipment. Why, they'd get a fine if they did that!

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Self-driving mid-capacity buses

I'm going to go with a less futuristic answer than others, though still of a near-future type.

The most efficient transport within a city are likely going to be self-driving vans or small buses that respond to an Uber-like app. This will allow doorstop-to-destination functionality for a cost quite similar to current bus fare.

This gives you a system that is that has the potential to be hacked (either the app itself or the self-driving network). It also gives the potential for a someone to have psychological issues with turning over your safety to a machine.

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    $\begingroup$ Safety wise, this can also result in being in the same bus as one or two other people, who might look a bit sketchy. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2021 at 6:42
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Adaptive cruise, road trains and "platooning"

Adaptive cruise control allows your car to follow the car in front and adjust your speed to maintain a safe distance. This was conceived in the 1980s or earlier as an obvious application of radar principles, but the technology to apply this in mass-market cars did not catch up until the 2000s.

After its conception though, people immediately realised that it was possible to use this to create "road trains" of many vehicles travelling in the same direction, all maintaining a distance from a lead vehicle. This is commonly also called "platooning", since the phrase "road train" is also used to describe long tractor-trailer rigs.

On the road today, cars have to maintain a separation which allows the adaptive cruise to react to any action of the car in front. If the car in front is driving automatically though, it can broadcast a notification of what it plans to do before it does it, allowing all the cars behind it in the platoon to take appropriate action. With this system in place, cars can travel at the maximum legal speed virtually bumper-to-bumper. This New Scientist article 9 years ago describes it pretty well, albeit that the cars in their platoon were still allowing more space than could be possible in the future. The article of course also predates the recent development in self-driving vehicles by Tesla and others.

I note that you do ask for "faster" than flying cars. Cars are generally slower - even something as basic as a Piper Super Cub has a cruise speed of 115mph. However cars can maintain that speed largely regardless of wind strength, whereas any aircraft flying into the wind will have their ground speed directly reduced by the wind speed. Modern speed limits are also set at a level which reduces casualties from the inevitable human inability to maintain perfect concentration over long periods. Fully autonomous vehicles have no such lapses in concentration, so it could be practical for them to be allowed to drive much faster.

Fuel/energy consumption is significantly better on a car too - a Prius will give you 50mpg at speed, whereas you're looking at 25mpg on the Super Cub. Cars could also be designed for platooning to improve slipstreaming, which would further boost their efficiency. If you're looking into the future, energy usage is likely to be more of a thing. Flying has many benefits, but energy efficiency is not one of them.

The implications for hacking should be clear here. It only takes one vehicle to do something unexpected, and several miles of road become a nose-to-tail mass of twisted metal as all the vehicles in the "platoon" go down like dominoes. Hack everyone at the same time and the entire road network dies instantly, along with a decent percentage of the people on it.

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If you want to get the chance for something "futuristic" but unique, take a look at the trend.

Cellphones got smaller and far more powerful. Say you contract your hover cars until they are fancy boots. There is nothing more dignified than wearing your ride.

Knee-high repulsors. Everyone with a driving license uses the Fly-Assist. Hack the network and now everyone is grounded or unable to fly to certain destinations. Their own boots led them astray.

Have the heroes try to fly without assist! It should be illegal and beyond dangerous! Suicidal even!

That makes for juicy adventure :-D

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Parabolic tunnels

One proposed future transportation method I've heard of is making underground tunnels in the shape of a parabola. Vacuum out the air out and put in maglev or whatnot (all of suggestions in @Trioxidane's hyperloop answer still apply), but the advantage of the parabolic tunnel is that you could essentially just drop a train car on one end, letting gravity do most of the work, and the momentum it gains on the way down is just about enough to bring it all the way back up the other side. Such a vehicle would require almost no energy, and could be incredibly fast - I've heard estimates of going between New York and London in 1 hour.

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