Rational Cause for Optimism

Rational Cause For Optimism: Underground Autonomous Transport

Amidst the noise, haste, and chaos of modern life there are more positive developments for humanity than one might think. Everyone focuses on the disasters of the climate crisis, and while those do motivate our daily work, we also feel it’s important to highlight the hopeful – the very real innovations pushing our clean energy movement forward. The purpose of this new column on our blog is to explore noteworthy causes for optimism that we observe from ReVision Energy’s front row seat in the renewable energy arena.

Rational Cause For Optimism: Underground Autonomous Transport

Imagine driving your car (preferably electric) down the highway without any 18-wheeler tractor trailers polluting the skies and/or threatening to crush you like a bug. This vision is about to become reality as Switzerland launches its innovative “Cargo Sous Terrain” (Cargo Underground) project.

With a growing population and economy, the Swiss foresee highway gridlock and increased air pollution if they do not overhaul their cargo transportation system.

The plan is for electric autonomous vehicles, powered by renewable energy, to travel in underground tunnels at roughly 25 mph to move freight at lower cost and zero emissions compared to diesel-powered highway big rigs. The project design includes an overhead ‘rapid track’ for smaller goods and packages.

Here in the United States, roughly two million 18-wheelers criss cross our highway system, burning about 40 billion gallons of diesel per year to transport goods. In addition to 500,000 truck-related accidents resulting in about 4,000 deaths per year, the trucking industry is pumping more than 80 billion pounds of carbon pollution into earth’s closed atmosphere every year.

screengrabswitzerland-768x505.jpgMoving a large volume of cargo transportation underground is expected to reduce Switzerland’s highway congestion by more than 30%, while also reducing accidents, deaths and carbon pollution.

Although underground cargo transportation is not a practical solution nationwide in the U.S., it could be a gamechanger regionally in congested places like New England where urban highways become impassable at rush hour. It has been estimated that traffic jams are costing Americans roughly $300 billion/year in lost productivity and missed delivery deadlines.

Switzerland’s ‘Cargo Sous Terrain’ project is expected to cost $30 to $35 billion once the 310-mile underground network is completed, with 100% paid by private industry. Portland, ME to New York City is 315 miles. Imagine driving from Maine to the Big Apple with no big rigs nor diesel pollution, while cargo moves invisibly and cleanly beneath your tires!

All photos and facts taken from IEEE Spectrum.