The next big thing in transportation may be Next. The modular electric car design looks really nothing like a car, more like a boxy room on wheels, but it runs on roads just like any other car.
At least, that’s the idea. There are no prototypes of Next yet, but the inventor, Tommaso Gecchelin hopes that the pods will start getting on the road in as little as five years.
Next, as Gecchelin envisions it, is an app-based transportation system. Just like Uber or Lyft, you would put your current location and your destination into your phone, summoning a Next module. You get in and sit down (or stand–the design includes plenty of head room, though seat belt laws might have something to say about that) and the module starts off. During the journey, it might link up with other modules, able to connect on the go to create one long module, with sliding doors between each compartment. As you continue on your way, you may be asked to switch cars as the autonomous algorithm figures out how to most efficiently get you (and everyone riding with you) to your individual destinations. Once you are safely ensconced in the departure car, the sliding doors close, your new car detaches, and you make your way to the end of your journey, all without stopping.
As an electric vehicle, Next relies on batteries, and may switch passengers from a car with low charge to a fully-charged car mid journey.
In the future, specialized modules containing coffee shops, bars, or restaurants could come to you, redefining ‘food to go’. Constantly stopping a road trip to go to the bathroom? No more. Instead, the toilet will come to you. Need to get work done on the road? Special offices will make business trips all business all the time.
It sounds great–dining cars on every roadway! But will it really catch on? Besides the logistics of keeping hot coffee steady in a moving vehicle, there are some practical questions. Will it play nice with other cars on the road? Will it be easy? Will people be willing to pay for the extra services? How much will a ride cost?
People generally want their journey from point A to point B to be as simple and as fast as possible. Scenery and extras like food, beverages, and toilets are nice for long trips, but for day-to-day getting to the grocery store or commuting to work, you want to know that you can get there quickly and efficiently, without having to haul your bags or the kids from one car to the other during one of the signature module transfers. To that end, the company’s website does propose having privately owned modules that can be shared with a select group of friends or family (with many people sharing the costs of upkeep). Whether or not that’s an option that people will take to will depend in large part on the cost of the modules.
But even with some questions unanswered, it’s a fascinating idea–and a road trip without constant bathroom breaks? Excellent.