I’ve long called myself an “ambidextrous commuter.”
When you travel from New Jersey to New York and back again each day, it helps to know how to properly catch a train or a bus. I’ve got friends who can bus but can’t train, and vice versa.
My days of owning that phrase may be numbered, though. Especially in light of Akka Technologies’ next-level plan to introduce a plane that sheds its wings and turns into a freaking train … all within the same commute.
The futuristic initiative — named “Link & Fly” — was pitched in an already award-winning marketing video to industrial aviation powerhouses like Boeing, and the concept is less complicated than you’d think. Imagine the wingless body of a plane, sort of a tubular train, leaving like a shuttle from a designated platform (not necessarily the airport, Akka wants to integrate Link & Fly into larger neighborhoods). Once on the train, each passenger’s retinas are scanned for security purposes. (You can keep your shoes on.) The machine then rolls into the “gate” where the drone-like wings and cockpit await. Everything clicks into place. Takeoff.
The plane could either transport up to 162 people, or remove those seats and transport cargo; it would make travel quicker, lighter, less polluting. The thing’s even just plain nice to stare at. And as Akka is essentially a team of "lightbulb" tech consultants, not actual manufacturers, the pressure isn't exactly on them for this to get done. Whoever can, well, land the plane — if not Boeing or an American company like it, perhaps an industrial giant in Asia — could change our air travel forever.
While this commuter is rooting for the Link & Fly to take, this could definitely take a while. Akka was at the forefront in self-driving car research a decade ago … and these days it’s more common to get roll-your-eyes headlines about autonomous autos than notes of triumph. Not to mention, integrating those tubular trains into neighborhoods not directly near the airport will require broad-scale infrastructure changes that could take decades. And let's never forget how cancel-happy rail lines and flight schedules get when it snows a few inches in parts of this country. There goes your whole trip.
On those days, find me on the bus.
Image: Akka Technologies