Technology Transportation and Society Then Now and the Near Future Term Paper

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Technology, Transportation, and Society - Then, Now and the Near Future

Technology, transportation and society are three areas that are interlinked. Technology determines what transportation will exist. The transportation that exists determines how we will live and the nature of our society also determines what transportation is created.

Transportation systems have developed considerably in the last century, giving us the society we currently have. The major development in the last few decades is in technology, with this likely to have a significant impact on future transportation systems.

The current transportation systems have also resulted in several problems, mostly related to environmental and quality of life issues. An understanding of these problems is likely to result in better planning and application of future transportation systems.

To look into the future of transportation, it is necessary to first look back at the history of transportation. By looking at where transportation has evolved from, it is possible to predict how it will continue to evolve in the future.

Brief History of Transportation

The transportation of today does not exist on its own, but as part of a timeline of constant evolution, where every new development improves upon the last. The automobile of today that everyone is familiar with would not exist without the invention of the wheel and the electric motor.

By looking at the history of transportation it is possible to see how our current transportation systems have evolved. This also offers clues that can be used to look into the future and predict how transportation will continue to evolve.

The development of transportation includes four specific areas: wheeled vehicles, ships, rail, and air transport. Put more simply, there are four ways of travelling: by land, by sea, by train and by plane. The development of each of these areas will now be discussed in turn.

Travelling by Land - Wheeled Vehicles

The history of travelling by land begins not with the development of vehicles, but with the development of roads.

Ancient civilizations needed to transport materials and to travel between different townships. This need resulted in the development of both roads and bridges.

The earliest of these roads date back to around 3500 BC and were built by the Sumerians. The Chinese were the first to construct a permanent road system around 1000 BC.

The Romans also built significant road structures, with around 53,000 miles of roads built throughout their empire (, 2002).

The second major development after the roads was the development of two-wheeled carts, which were developed by the Sumerians around 3000 BC. This was followed by the four-wheel chariots developed by the Egyptians and Greeks.

This was the precursor for the carriages that later became the major mode of transport.

Roads and horses and carts remained much the same until the twentieth century, when the internal combustion engine allowed for the development of automobiles, which completely replaced the horse and cart.

The popularity of automobiles also changed roads, causing them to evolve in line with the new transport. While dirt roads were sufficient for horse and carts, automobiles required a more durable form. Concrete roads were the result with the first concrete road in the United States built in Detroit in 1908 (Seitz, 2001).

During the 1930's highways began to be created including the German Autobahn. In the United States, turnpikes were created and by 1980 the Federal Interstate Highway was completed (Seitz, 2001).

These developments have led to our current technology, with complex permanent road systems, highly developed vehicles and a society that exists with automobile transport the major means of personal travel.

Travelling by Sea - Shipping Transport

Transport by water dates back to ancient civilizations and is one of the first forms of transport. Ancient civilizations with little other means of transport needed to live in close proximity to water, usually a river.

Without mechanical or electrical devices, a river is an excellent means of transportation. Canoes and transport vessels date as far back as 6300 BC.

Vessels for sailing the sea used the wind as a natural source of power. In the days before electricity, this was one of the few easy sources of power.

It was the later development of the steam engine that caused the greatest change in shipping. Steamships replaced sailing ships, with the steamships having greater power and being safer, faster and able to carry more cargo (Seitz, 2001). This allowed for greater travel and increased trade. Further developments then continued as diesel power replaced steam.

Travelling by Train - Rail Transport

Rail transport began in 1825 in England when the first steam train began to operate (Seitz, 2001). By 1893 trains were able to move at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (Seitz, 2001).

One of the major benefits of the steam train was its ability to carry heavy loads. This reduced the need of a waterway for transport and made townships away from waterways possible.

By 1900 passenger trains were comfortable means of travel, including having dining cars and heating. Passenger trains replaced stagecoaches because of their speed and their comfort (Seitz, 2001).

Travelling by Plane - Air Transport

The most recent development is the creation of air travel.

Travel by plane began in 1903 with the Wright brother's first flight. World war I caused it to be developed rapidly. World War II resulted in further development of the plane with the first jet aircraft created (Seitz, 2001).

Commercial aircraft began to be created after World War II with travel by plane becoming increasingly common. By the end of the twentieth century travel by plane has largely replaced travel by train, with air travel used for passenger transport, freight transport and as weapons of war.

The Transportation of Today

Travelling by Land - Wheeled Vehicles

Today, travel by land is a significant and accepted part of everyday life. The majority of individuals travel by car frequently. Similar vehicles such as buses and motorcycles are just as common. Society itself is based on automobile transport with travel by car the major means of individual transport.

This also results in the structure of society, with complex systems of roads required. This includes not only the roads but also the features required such as traffic lights and stop signs. In addition, there is a complex system of bureaucracy and regulations that support the transport system. Road rules are developed to assist in ensuring safety on the roads. Government departments and police are required to ensure the rules are followed.

Travelling by Sea - Shipping Transport

Travelling by sea takes several modern forms and for several purposes. Shipping continues to be the major means of transporting goods between nations, with international trade higher at this time than at any other time in history.

Fewer individuals travel by ship with planes the quicker method. Travel by boat then becomes a recreational activity, where individuals travel on cruise holidays and also engage in water sports.

Military travel by ship continues to be common, including both ships and submarines.

Travelling by Train - Rail Transport

Travel by train is still used as a form of public transport for transporting individuals and also for transporting freight. However, this has become a less used method, with planes and automobiles more popular.

Travel by train has also developed and adapted to modern society. With the traffic congestion of many cities a problem, train services have developed into tram and monorail services. These public transport systems provide transport between key locations while avoiding the problems of traffic congestion.

Travelling by Plane - Air Transport

Travel by plane has become a popular and convenient means of travel. Individuals are able to travel between distant locations quickly, conveniently and at low cost. Travel is also largely used to transport both mail and freight.

Air transport has also changed the nature of warfare. Aircraft are able to cause destruction on major levels, with the creation of aircraft allowing for a whole new range of weapons to be developed.

The Effect of Transport on Society

Transport has a major effect on society in many ways. Transport becomes a part of society and determines how we live our lives. This is a two-way process where transport adapts to society and society also adapts to transport.

For example, the growing population means that cities grow. These growing cities need better means of transport to move people from one side to the other. To allow this to happen, buses and tram systems are developed.

This is an example of how transport adapts to changing society.

The process then continues as the tram or bus systems allows individuals to live further from resources but still have access to them. With this ability, people move further from the city. This is an example of society adapting to transport.

This example illustrates the link between society and transport where each impacts on the other. Several of the specific areas that transport affects will now be discussed in turn.


Firstly, it must be recognized that transportation systems…

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