Getting From A to B: Past, Present and Future.

Getting From A to B: Past, Present and Future.

As humans our whole life has consisted of us travelling from A to B to C then back to A and so on. This has always and will always be the case. This concept has never changed, however it has evolved. Travel has altered in two ways, speed and comfortability.

An example of how travel has progressed: Paris to Beijing.

The First and Foremost.

For tens of thousands of years our only means of transport was ourselves, more specifically our legs. Walking was our only choice in prehistoric times and we used to average about 5-10 miles per day. Consider a prehistoric person moving at 5MPH(a light jog) for 10 hours a day. It would take them a mind boggling 120 days to reach the Chinese capital from Paris.

From this example we can see how our original means of transport was incredibly flawed. It was profoundly slow. Can you also imagine the intolerable conditions and treachery that would entail walking for 120 days across Europe and Asia on foot? Ill pass on that one!

 For 6 million years the only form of transport was ourselves.

2 Legs Become 6.

The next development in transport came from somewhere around the region we now call Kazakhstan. It is here where prehistoric people first tamed horses around 6000 years ago.

Before this advancement horses were too small too be ridden and were instead used as wild game. intially used for meat, after hundreds of years they were eventually bred to be larger. As time went by we upgraded this form of transport with the invention of the wheel around 3000 B.C and the harness there after, we could now use chariots and ride in comfort.

Lets go back to our example. A horse in peak condition can do approimately 100 miles in 24 hours if it is pushed to the limit. There is no way the animal could keep this pace up but for this instance lets say hypothetically it can. it would take it 60 days to get from Paris to Beijing. While slightly quicker and comfier than its pre decessing form of travel, I think I'll still pass.

Equine evolution


Full Steam Ahead.

The boat has been used as a means of getting around for about 6000 years. We first see evidence of it in ancient Egypt and in the Indian Ocean. For this instance we will however be using the first self-propelled boat, the steam boat.

In the early 1700's we see the invention of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen. It takes another hundred years until a successful steam engine boat comes to fruition. Robert Fulton designs the Clermont in 1807, a steam boat capable of achieving speeds of 5MPH upstream in the Hudson River. The steamboat will go on to flourish around the world, regularly crossing the Atlantic in the later years of the 19th century. It allowed millions of immigrants to move to the USA and make a better life for themselves and their families.

Paris is 5019 nautical miles from Beijing. The average speed of a steam boat in the early 1800's was 5MPH. This speed might not sound like much but when you factor in that this speed could be maintained for 24 hours a day 7 days a week we see the advancement. It would take around a month to complete the trip. Finally a form of transport which has a high-level of comfort. I suppose I'd give it a go.

The Clermont, 1807

The Automobile Era.

In the late 19th century we see a new industry begin to flourish. Automobiles, or 'cars', take the world by storm. Orginally we see three different types of car engine: Electric, Steam Powered and Internal Combustion. We will discuss internal combustion engines as they go on to dominate the industry for the next 120 years.

Karl Benz and his associates were the first to produce a gasoline-powered car for production in 1887. Although the French and Germans had sparked the initial flame of the automobile industry, it's the Americans who would soon supply the dynamite that would cause the explosion of the industry into mass-production and adoption.

Karl Benz's Motorwagen, 1886.

The most famous early automobile is no doubt the Ford Model T. We see the Model T first hit the scene in October 1908. It would go on to sell 15 million units. The initial price of the revolutionary vehicle was $825, or about $24,000 in today's market. It would go on to dominate for nearly 20 years before being pulled out of production in 1927 at a final price of just $290.

For our journey from Paris to Beijing we have decided to use the Model T. It had a top speed of 45MPH. Lets say we drove at top speed for 12 hours a day. We would arrive in Beijing in a mere 11 days. Now we are getting somewhere.

The Ford Model T

Sky's The Limit. For Now.....

Not long after the invention of the car we see manned flight come into existence in 1903. The infamous Wright brothers launch the first sustained and controlled flight. The aircraft which they used, The Wright Flyer, was made from wood and duck canvas, it would pave the way for the biggest change in transport the world had ever seen.

The Wright Flyer could achieve speeds of around 30MPH. It could not hold this speed for more than a minute but lets imagine it could fly for 12 hours a day to fit our example. Despite the impossibility of the plane flying for this long, it would have still taken two weeks! That's too long to spend airborne for me, pass!

The Wright Flyer, 1903


At last we arrive in the modern era. Many of the previously discussed methods of transport have since become obselete. We are left with boats, cars and planes. The three of these have evolved exponentially.

The Boat now has many forms. From cruise liners to speed boats, whether you're after comfort or pace, the choices are endless. At the time it was built the titanic was the largest ship man had ever produced. Fast forward about 100 years to the present and modern cruise liners dwarf the once behemoth.

The Allure Of The Seas compared to the Titanic.

Our example is about speed. How fast can we travel presently from Paris to Beijing by sea? The world water speed record is held by Ken Warby of Australia. In 1978 Ken acheived a top speed of 345MPH. Again for our example we're going to be hypothetical and say we can maintain the speed consistently. Theoretically we could complete the journey in just 14 hours. Count me in but I'll need a hot shower after!

Ken Warby and The Spirit Of Austrailia.

The car has advanced year on year unlike any other. It is the most common form of day-to-day transport without a doubt. Today it's no more a means of getting around than it is a rite of passage to possess one. We are currently at a crossroads in the industry. We're seeing a quick shift from gas powered internal combustion to electric, and rightly so.

Although the first electric vehicle(EV) was brought to life in 1884 by a London engineer called Thomas Parker, it is only now that they are becoming a market leader. Electric vehicles are a huge leap in the right direction. No more internal combustion means no more toxic fumes being pumped out of the exhaust pipe, no more fuel line, tank or pump.

While EV's are cheaper to run and maintain (less parts) in comparison to their internal combustion counterparts, they are more expensive to produce due to their batteries. The new Tesla Roadster will have a range of 620 miles from a single charge of 6 hours (peak charging).

Lets use the the Roadster for our example. It can go from 0-60MPH in a mind blowing 1.9 seconds. It has a top speed of more than 250MPH. The range of 620 miles will significantly decrease if you're racing the car but we're going to again imagine we can do the full range at full speed. We would have to stop to charge the car nearly 10 times. Thats 60 hours for the charging alone. The total journey would take 3.5 days.

While EV's have less of an enviornmental impact than their gas-guzzling counterparts, they aren't yet the best option for long distance or should I say cross-continent travel. The interior of the Roadster is however the definition of style and comfort, I'll take this one.

The new Tesla Roadster

The aeroplane is by far the most popular form of long distance transport today. We see a large variety in this sector too. Whether you're a fighter pilot or a holiday goer (or both), I'm sure you are grateful for the Wright brother's endeavours.

For our example we will choose two different types of aircraft: the SR-71 Blackbird and the Boeing-737.

The Blackbird has a top speed of a heart-stopping 2,200 MPH. If you were lucky enough to be one of the two people who can fit in this marvel of a machine, you would reach Beijing in just over two hours. A two hour daily commute is not uncommon in today's society, how far we've come.

The Boeing-737 is the world's most popular passenger jet. If you've been abroad theres a high probabilty you've been on one. This jet cruises at 583MPH with its inhabitants sleeping, eating and drinking with comfort for the duration of the trip. It would reach Beijing in about 9 hours.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

What does the future hold?

Technology is now so advanced that I can hypothetically go to anywhere in the world (and beyond) with the click of a button. I can facetime my friend 5000 miles a way, I can take a walk through Yellowstone National Park with Google Earth's 360 degree videos and i can watch livestream videos from Nasa of the surface of Mars. As technology advances at a ferocious pace there's no doubt that society will utilise it more and more to save time on and possibly even cut out transport.

The most common reason people in the modern era needed transport was to get to work. As a result of Covid-19, with lockdowns and the pandemic, we have established a new age of work-life. People have transitioned to working from home with ease. This will no doubt become more common as time goes by and science, engineering and technology rapidly grows. Can you believe it? We have become so technologically advanced that we are no longer evolving transport, we are transcending it.