Four Ways Traditional Vehicles Could Transform in the Future—Even Elevators
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Four Ways Traditional Vehicles Could Transform in the Future—Even Elevators

Researchers, professors and executives forecast changes and innovations coming for some traditional conveyances

By CHRIS KORNELIS
Wed, Nov 9, 2022 8:54amGrey Clock 4 min

As transportation industries look to reduce carbon emissions and keep up with changing regulations, the vehicles and vessels that carry people and products will evolve in the coming decades. Here are four trends experts in their fields see coming.

Elevators That Turn Left

Despite their name, there’s no rule that says elevators can only go up and down. Lee Gray, a professor of architectural history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says elevators that also move horizontally have been part of the vertical transportation dream for more than 100 years. It hasn’t become a reality, he says, largely because of the immense costs associated with it.

But companies are moving in this direction. The German company TK Elevator, for example, has designed an elevator that moves vertically and horizontally called Multi—though it hasn’t yet been put into public operation. Dr. Gray believes multidirectional elevators will be a part of the future, deployed in a variety of ways.

If more people live in urban high-rises, multidirectional elevators could be incorporated into tall buildings and integrated with large transportation systems, such as subways, built beneath them, says Dr. Gray. They could also be used in cities like Las Vegas, where a lot of people in, say, a hotel are trying to get to a convention center across the street.

Climate change could inspire the use of multidirectional elevators to help people avoid the heat, much like cities such as Minneapolis currently have heated skyways to help people avoid the cold, Dr. Gray says. “Maybe I really don’t want to go outside,” he says. “Maybe I’ll be happy to be zooming along in my little air-conditioned elevator car.”

Truly Remote Car Charging

Charging an electric car is a lot like charging a cellphone in the 2000s: If you use it at all, you’ve got to charge it a lot. Solutions in the works include dedicated lanes that wirelessly charge cars as they drive down the road, with a pilot program launching next year in Detroit.

Dedicated lanes aren’t the best long-term solution, says Dennis Hong, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and founding director of the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at University of California, Los Angeles. “We want to try to avoid rigid infrastructure, things that you can’t really modify that easily,” he says.

Dr. Hong says an alternative could be car charging delivered via radio waves. The technology exists, he says, but is being used only in laboratory settings, not commercially.

Such a method would need to overcome some significant safety challenges, notes Michael Kintner-Meyer, a research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. Sending that amount of energy through radio waves would be similar to pointing a radar at a car, he says, except “any living creature passing through it will be basically fried.”

Tugboat Drones

Even tugboats are being challenged to go emissions-free. These traditional helper-vessels could also go people-free, some in the industry believe.

Having crews on board comes with inefficiencies: People need bathrooms, beds, clean laundry, and they have a lot of downtime. Companies are developing technology for electric tugboats to sail without crew onboard—running autonomously when appropriate and controlled remotely by a human as needed.

Between going electric and not needing a crew, the look of a tug is going to change. Since it will no longer need a place for the crew to sleep and a high perch for the captain, the tugs of the future could be smaller and flatter. “What I envision looking at the harbor one day is you’re going to see more vessels with a very low profile,” said Jerry Silla, director of fleet engineering at Foss Maritime, a Seattle-based tug operator. “You won’t see these big superstructures, you’re not going to see vessels that are manned by crew.”

One of the biggest challenges for a crew-free tugboat? Figuring out how to transfer the tow rope from the tug to the vessel it is assisting, says Oskar Levander, senior vice president of business concepts at Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime. Today, crew members on the ship and the tug exchange a rope. But what to do when no one’s on the tug? Mr. Levander says potential solutions include big mechanical arms that come off the side of the tug, magnets, and even drone-delivered rope.

The Little, Local Airport

The U.S. has roughly 5,000 public airports, heliports, and seaplane bases, and upward of 14,000 for private use. But most travelers fly between only a few of the big ones. That is going to change, predicts Gregory Davis, CEO of Eviation, which is developing an electric plane.

Mr. Davis contends that electric planes will be cheaper to operate than those powered by jet fuel. They’re also going to be smaller. His company’s Alice prototype—which made its first flight in September—holds nine passengers and two crew members. The emergence of electric planes will eventually open up the nation’s regional and local airports to more commercial flights, he predicts, allowing travelers to avoid larger airports.

“We have a major potential to expand point-to-point air travel, which is also the most cost-effective and cleanest way of getting specifically from where you [are] to where you want to go,” he said. “You’re going to have much more choice and much easier access to air travel in 2050.”

Eviation plans to begin delivering aircraft in 2027. But before electric airplanes begin carrying commercial passengers between regional airports, there’s work to be done beyond the design of the planes, Mr. Davis says—from dealing with regulatory hurdles to building out a charging network at airports.



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Personal Wardrobe of the Iconic Late Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood Goes up for Auction
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The personal wardrobe of the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who is credited for introducing punk to fashion and further developing the style, is headed to auction in June.

Christie’s will hold the live sale in London on June 25, while some of the pieces will be available in an online auction from June 14-28, according to a news release from the auction house on Monday.

Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s husband and the creative director for her eponymous fashion company, selected the clothing, jewellery, and accessories for the sale, and the auction will benefit charitable organisations The Vivienne Foundation, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The more than 200 lots span four decades of Westwood’s fashion, dating to Autumn/Winter 1983-84, which was one of Westwood’s earliest collections. Titled “Witches,” the collection was inspired by witchcraft as well as Keith Haring’s “graphic code of magic symbols,” and the earliest piece being offered from it is a two-piece ensemble made of navy blue serge, according to the release.

“Vivienne Westwood’s sense of activism, art and style is embedded in each and every piece that she created,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, the head of sale and director of Private & Iconic Collections at Christie’s.

A corset gown of taupe silk taffeta from “Dressed to Scale,” Autumn/Winter 1998-99, will also be included in the sale. The collection “referenced the fashions that were documented by the 18th century satirist James Gillray and were intended to attract as well as provoke thought and debate,” according to Christie’s.

Additionally, a dress with a blue and white striped blouse and a printed propaganda modesty panel and apron is a part of the wardrobe collection. The dress was a part of “Propaganda,” Autumn/Winter 2005-06, Westwood’s “most overtly political show” at the time. It referenced both her punk era and Aldous Huxley’s essay “Propaganda in a Democratic Society,” according to Christie’s.

The wardrobe collection will be publicly exhibited at Christie’s London from June 14-24.

“The pre-sale exhibition and auctions at Christie’s will celebrate her extraordinary vision with a selection of looks that mark significant moments not only in her career, but also in her personal life,” Hume-Sayer said. “This will be a unique opportunity for audiences to encounter both the public and the private world of the great Dame Vivienne Westwood and to raise funds for the causes in which she so ardently believed.”

Westwood died in December 2022 in London at the age of 81.

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