To connect cities along the Nile with the Red and Mediterranean seas, Egypt has launched a €8.1 billion megaproject to build the sixth-largest rail network in the world from scratch—spanning 41 high-speed trains, 94 regional trains, 41 freight trains, eight depots and freight stations, and 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of rail lines across the country. Project partners include Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels, local construction firms Orascom Construction and The Arab Contractors, and Siemens Mobility. And though the full network isn’t slated to be completed until 2027, its influence may be felt much sooner. As Siemens Mobility CEO Turnkey Christoph Götz says, the high-speed rail “will offer a blueprint for the region on how to install an integrated, sustainable and modern transportation system.”
4th Most Influential Project of 2022
Kenyan-Swedish startup Roam is on a mission to build sustainable transport across Africa—and it’s following its own path to get there. In December 2021, the company partnered with Uber to distribute more than 3,000 electric motorcycles, helping the Silicon Valley giant scale its efforts on the continent. Then in July, the company released Roam Air. Based on years of R&D, the new electric motorcycle was designed specifically for “the African use-case and with special focus on affordability, functional design and performance.” The potential is massive: Motorcycles are a booming business in the country. But historically, most of those produced in Kenya have been gas-powered, resulting in huge emission rates and high levels of noise pollution. If Roam can turn the two-wheeled tide in Kenya and other nations, it stands to dramatically transform the way in which Africans get from point A to point B—and ensures they leave a positive impact in their wake.
9th Most Influential Project of 2022
Africa’s population is booming, but limited mobility option have contributed to uneven economic growth. To address the dire need for a transportation transformation, Zurich’s Afrailways and Namibia’s Groot Suisse Industries unveiled a bold plan to create the Afrail Express, a high-speed rail line that will connect nearly 80 percent of Africa’s population, stretching from Morocco to South Africa, Nigeria to Egypt. Once fully operational in 2033, the Afrail Express could contribute an estimated US$5 trillion to Africa’s economy. The first phase of construction is slated to start in 2024.
42nd Most Influential Project of 2022
When it comes to Parisian public transportation, the city’s iconic Metro likely springs to mind. But it may get some competition with a proposed cable car project that would connect the southeastern suburbs to the capital’s city center via aerial cabins. Designed by architecture firm Atelier Schall and co-conceived with Doppelmayr France, Île-de-France Mobilités, Spie Batignolles and Egis, the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) line seeks to solve a longtime problem: The suburbs south of the city are nestled within hilly terrain, making the construction of a metro line challenging. The skyward people movers would obviate this problem—and provide a breathtakingly beautiful view—to more than 11,000 commuters each day. Construction is set to begin later this year, with completion targeted for 2025.
Airport dispatchers are the chess masters of the skies, deciding routes based on traffic, weather and any airspace restrictions. And in May 2021, Alaska Airlines announced its dispatchers would get an AI boost. Created by San Francisco startup Airspace Intelligence, the software can suggest bespoke routes between cities, which the dispatcher can then accept or not. Within the first six months of the airline using the system, more than 28,000 flights had their routes optimized, saving 24,490 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The flights tend to land a little bit sooner, and the airline also has a more precise estimate on touchdown, which means passengers will be more likely to avoid the dreaded circling.
When Korean car manufacturer Hyundai first unveiled its “walking” car concept, the vehicle’s gangly gait and insectoid form raised a few eyebrows. Yet most figured it was one of the fancy futuristic vehicles that companies use to show off their tech and never come to fruition. But the innovative Elevate concept drew much closer to reality in May when Hyundai completed its USD$20 million development center in Bozeman, Montana, USA. The lab will test Elevate and other “ultimate mobility vehicle” concepts—those with robotic legs built to navigate tough terrain. The capability could help first responders in natural disasters or even make it easier to transport people in wheelchairs, aligning the facility with Hyundai’s larger Progress for Humanity initiative.
In October 2021, a driverless train made its debut in Hamburg, Germany. That might not sound like a major achievement to anyone who has ridden an unmanned monorail at the airport, but there’s a striking distinction: This train on the S-Bahn network shares its tracks with human-operated trains, maneuvering through rail traffic on its own and matching the timetable to the second. Plus, it operates in a more energy-efficient manner. A joint project between Siemens and Deutsche Bahn, the train can transport up to 30 percent more passengers than its nonautomated counterparts, all while reducing energy consumption by up to 30 percent.
India has more than 8 million rickshaws (or tuk-tuks) on its streets, which means shifting even a small portion of those lightweight three-wheelers to electric power would bring significant savings in carbon emissions. But the electric battery’s relatively short range and long charge time have made it a tough sell to rickshaw drivers who make their living from being on the road. In October 2021, Honda unveiled a novel solution: a battery-sharing network across India that will allow drivers to use one of the Japanese manufacturing giant’s new portable lithium-ion batteries, then swap it out once a charge is needed. A pilot of the service in early 2021 saw 30 rickshaw drivers cover more than 200,000 kilometers (124,000 miles)—verifying the project’s business viability. Honda isn’t alone in the race to power India’s EV transition, but its focus on the underlying infrastructure could dramatically speed adoption.
In June, Swedish marine e-mobility company Candela revealed plans to launch a nine-month public transportation pilot next year that will connect commuters between Sweden’s capital and surrounding suburbs via what it calls the first electric hydrofoil water taxi to be serially produced. The craft uses 80 percent less energy than conventional counterparts, with almost no wake. And it’s speedier to boot, capable of zipping across the water at 55 kilometers (34 miles) per hour. The passenger payoff? Roughly 50 minutes shaved off their daily commute.
It won’t make vehicles move any faster or more efficiently, but it sure does look cool. BMW debuted its “E Ink” color-changing paint in January—and car nerds and techies alike couldn’t get enough. Relying on the same tech that’s used in e-readers like the Kindle, the paint is actually a surface coating of many millions of microcapsules containing negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. At the touch of a button, the driver can shift the car’s shading or add a monochromatic racing stripe. For now, the German automaker has said this is only an “advanced” R&D project (meaning that E Ink won’t likely be hitting dealership lots any time soon). But it could inform how teams maximize design efficiencies for future cars—capitalizing on how color, for example, affects a vehicle’s ability to absorb or repel heat in extreme environments.