Dreaming the future of holiday travel

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Dreaming the future of holiday travel

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In the 1670s, Father Ferdinand Verbiest introduced the first form of an “automobile.” He was in China as a Flemish missionary during the Qing Dynasty, and in order to attract the attention of the Kangxi Emperor, he invented a 60-centimeter-long wooden trolley with a simple steam engine. The first self-propelled vehicle that could carry a person was invented by French military engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. He built a three-wheeled steam-powered vehicle and drove it for one hour on the outskirts of Paris. It crashed into a wall by a hill, and the event is considered the first car accident.

The first cars were imported to Korea for Emperor Sunjong and the Japanese colonial government in 1911, according to Lee I-hwa in his book, “Stories in Korean History.” For a long time, however, the core of modern transportation in Korea was the railway system.

Back then, people going home for the holidays had to compete for train tickets. The JoongAng Ilbo’s Sept. 26, 1969 issue featured an article titled “Pushed, Pressed and Beaten,” which said that 110,000 people went to Seoul Station to catch trains home for the Chuseok holiday, and the police wielded bamboo sticks to keep them in order. By the late 1980s, auto transportation had become common and people who could not get train tickets would drive home on the holidays. This year was no different, and it took more than nine hours to go from Busan to Seoul on Sept. 13, the day after Chuseok.

No one wants to sit in a car for hours, and a new invention may remedy that problem. Two years ago, Larry Page, the founder of Google, was looking down at Highway 101 in Silicon Valley from an airplane, and it occurred to him that technology could help save humans a tremendous amount of time and space on the road. Since then, Google has been developing driverless cars. The company believes that the automated vehicles will reduce the distance between cars on the road and reduce traffic accidents. According to experts, twice as many driverless cars could be on the road as cars driven by people. If the initiative gains traction, you may soon be able to inform your car of your destination and let it take you there automatically.

As English poet and painter William Blake once said: “What is now proved was once only imagined.” Let’s hope that what was once imagined by the Google founder comes to fruition soon so that future journeys home for the holidays will be a little more comfortable.

*The writer is a staff writer of the JoongAng Sunday.


By Kim Chang-woo
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