Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Earth Power Technology

Two Big Tests For Personal Rapid Transportation 299

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-you-stay-near-a-charging-point dept.
Al writes "A novel kind of transit system, in which cars are replaced by a network of automated electric vehicles, is about to get its first large-scale testing and deployment. Two of these Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems are being installed this year, one at Heathrow International Airport, near London, and one in the United Arab Emirates, where it will be the primary source of transportation in Masdar City, a development that will eventually accommodate 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses and is designed to emit no carbon dioxide. The article examines these two systems and includes video that includes an animation of the PRT system in action."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Two Big Tests For Personal Rapid Transportation

Comments Filter:
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:20AM (#26798399)
    just like the Segway did!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Endo13 (1000782)

      Mall cops use Segways you insensitive clod!

      (The funny thing is, they really DO, around here.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rrohbeck (944847)

        I saw a cop on a Segway at the airport a couple of weeks ago and for the life of me I couldn't understand what benefits such a clumsy way of moving around might have over walking. Save some of the calories from donuts? Employ disabled cops? I don't get it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jo_ham (604554)

          Speed. You can cover a lot of ground without expending energy over the course of your long shift in the huge terminal you're patrolling, and when you step off it you're not "tired out" from getting to where you're needed.

          (assuming the cop in question actually does maintain a fitness regime commensurate with a job where being grossly unfit would be a severe hindrance - I know some cops who do, and some who don't - in the former case, the Segway is just a tool for the job, in the latter case, it is a crutch t

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            "assuming the cop in question actually does maintain a fitness regime commensurate with a job where being grossly unfit would be a severe hindrance"

            You know, I've often wondered if Police depts around the country actually have minimum physical standards that all street cops have to pass. If they do, how freakin' low are these minimums?

            I mean, I see a LOT of officers that could not run a block without heart failure, and with guts so large, they have a hard time fitting under a steering wheel of a car.

            I t

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by gnick (1211984)

              They typically (always?) have to meet a set of minimum physical standards to get hired. However, they are not often required to maintain those standards once employed. Professional firefighters, on the other hand, typically have to meet a much stricter set of standards to get hired and maintaining their health is certainly a condition of employment. I know a cop here (captain now) who tried for about a decade to get into the fire department but, once he finally passed the physical entrance screen he was

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...just like the Segway did!

      Nice segue.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:08PM (#26800153)
      As a big plus, hacking the automated navigation on these will also revolutionize the kidnapping industry!
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:26AM (#26798489)
    These pods look cute and all, but do they really do anything that trains and buses don't? The trains at SFO and SeaTac do a great job.
    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:34AM (#26798637)

      They leave at the second you want to leave and can probably stop exactly where you want to stop.

      Instead of trying to speed up and slow down an entire train every 1/2 mile you're only accelerating and stopping these once per passenger.

      I didn't RTFA, but the systems I've seen in the past have little 'bypasses' at each stop. You get in and punch in a destination. If you're at your destination you get off. If you're not you keep on whizzing by. It's faster so people would be more apt to use it. (You're not going to waste 3/4 of the trip slowing down and speeding up to somewhere you're not going.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aladrin (926209)

        Yes, but count tonnage per passenger and I think you'll find the cars are a lot worse for efficiency, so the accelerating and stopping per passenger is a lot worse for the personal vehicles.

        These are convenient only for places they go, as well. They either need to be as big and safe as a car, or they need tracks like a train.

        As far as I can tell, the only thing they have going for them is being electric instead of fuel, and being so ugly nobody would try to steal it.

        • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:26PM (#26799467)

          Except when everything is tied to the same grid you can use one big 'battery' at the end of the line. Every time a vehicle brakes you can dump the energy back to the grid. A huge underground flywheel would be ideal. If every car tried to accelerate at once you could dump it out of the fly wheel and vice versa (just make sure you size your power lines to handle the load).

          For aerodynamic efficiency you could easily pair one or two pods together to go a long distance. If I'm going across town and there's a personal pod coming up that is going to the similar location the system could sync our vehicles up for the longest portion of the drive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by atamido (1020905)

          The idea that I've seen put forth is that the tracks can be much smaller than a regular train as the pod is very light (only need sitting room for 3 people). This means you can easily and cheaply (relatively) build elevated tracks above sidewalks or roads, so you can put a train stop just about anywhere. Because of decreased expense, you get more tracks and more stops, increasing their usefulness.

          Normal trains require quite a bit of space and expense to build a track.

      • Yea, but it loses the efficiency of scale. A bus only needs 1 engine, for this you need 1 engine for every 1 or 2 people. A bus would use the same amount of energy to stop and let 10 people off, as it would to stop and let 1 off.

        Given a source of cheap clean energy, I can see these being cool. Otherwise, some larger system would be more efficient.

        • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:00PM (#26799055)

          A bus would use the same amount of energy to stop and let 10 people off, as it would to stop and let 1 off.

          EXACTLY. Why run an enormous diesel (or electric, or CNG) motor to move around an entire bus, if the payload that needs to be transported is only a single person?

          The PRT approach allows the energy expendicture of system to scale almost exactly with demand, albeit with a larger overhead at peak usage than traditional mass transit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kagato (116051)

            That's right on. If you do a lot of travel you see several peak times during the day, and a lot of off peak times. it's not uncommon to see a train/tram/whatever running fairly empty. That's a lot of wasted energy.

            The real question of these systems won't be if they can save money per passenger, it's can they spin up and handle the load at peak times.

            • by eobanb (823187) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:17PM (#26799319) Homepage
              I would imagine that a PRT system like this would work best in conjunction with other mass transit and personal transit systems, preferably integrated into one overall system. Just like the only way to replace fossil fuels is with a combination of renewable resources, the only way to really replace cars is with a combination of transit systems. On really heavy, major routes, I would think that trams/trains/buses would be the best. On lighter routes, (especially flowing out from urban to suburban areas), PRTs would be best, with dozens of small branch lines to take people within just a block or two of where they live.

              This is how cars will eventually be replaced.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by ChrisA90278 (905188)

                This is how cars will eventually be replaced.

                No. Cars will evolve into PRT systems. What is lacking is automated drivers. Once a car can drive itself you can do many great things like have then hook up into trains or one car can tell other cars that it needs to change lans and the others move out of the way.

                Little by little cars will gain "smarts" at first with automatic braking then steering controls to follow a lane and so one until maybe 50 years they no longr need a driver at all -- great for kids an

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by slim (1652)

              Of course you can retain your fleet of buses, and only run them at peak times, letting the PRT system handle the road the rest of the time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by qbzzt (11136)

          Otherwise, some larger system would be more efficient.

          More energy efficient, but less time efficient. It depends on the relative value of people's time vs. energy.

        • You have to account for a lot of other inefficiencies in a mass transit system, for instance

          http://www.templetons.com/brad/transit-myth.html [templetons.com]

          This is certainly not the last word on the pluses and minuses of mass transit, but it certainly illustrates that mass transit systems are by NO MEANS de-facto more energy efficient than personal transportation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by superdave80 (1226592)

          A bus only needs 1 engine, for this you need 1 engine for every 1 or 2 people.

          Yes, but what happens when that bus has only 1 or 2 (or zero) people? You waste a lot of energy moving around a heavy, empty bus.

          A bus would use the same amount of energy to stop and let 10 people off, as it would to stop and let 1 off.

          And it would use the same amount of energy to stop and let zero people off, which it does many times a day. This is a waste of energy, and a waste of time for the people on the bus.

          Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. It seems that the best way to make use of the two systems is to have scheduled bus service only during peak hours to make use of the efficiency of a

        • A bus would use the same amount of energy to stop and let 10 people off, as it would to stop and let 1 off.

          You refuted your own argument here. This is exactly why buses and trains are inefficient. During peak hours they are great--a full bus has dozens of people being carried by a single vehicle, but half the time buses are LESS than half full. Buses are very large and consume a lot of diesel, so if you can't run them full ALL the time they approach the efficiency of a car.

          The "peak load" problem can be solved by either closing or merging routes during non-peak hours (at the expense of customer service/utilit

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:50AM (#26798907) Journal
        And they work all night around. A blame I hold against most mass transit systems.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MightyYar (622222)

        Instead of trying to speed up and slow down an entire train every 1/2 mile you're only accelerating and stopping these once per passenger.

        But of course you have to run the huge train or bus off-peak, too. Otherwise, people won't be able to depend on mass transit and will drive. So as a result, even the vaunted NYC mass-transit system isn't - on average - that much better than if people were just being hauled around in individual cabs.

        Some mix is probably the right thing to do. Peak hours run a combination of express and local trains, just like today. But then switch over to these little personal cars on the same tracks during off-peak times.

    • by Uttles (324447)
      Does IP do anything that Tokenring doesn't? Come on man, really. I've been an advocate of PRT's for a long time, I really hope they show their worth.
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      "These pods look cute and all, but do they really do anything that trains and buses don't? The trains at SFO and SeaTac do a great job."

      I dunno about that, but, one thing they do have in common, is that neither will get you door-to-door travel, and won't generally be as fast or on your schedule.

      Man..I hope I don't live to see the day when this kind of thing is forced on us where I live. I like my independence to come and go exactly when I please.

      And if it is a nice day...I like taking my motorcycle.

    • by Toe, The (545098) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:50AM (#26798897)

      If it scales up, it then can be compared to cars, not trains.

      The benefits a system like this has over cars are:
      - Vastly reduced fatalities to occupants (though perhaps pedestrians can still be struck by them)
      - Vastly reduced production resources - instead of everyone having a car, you just "call a cab"
      - Vastly reduced pollution - since you can centralize the power source, instead of having cars spewing everywhere
      - Vastly reduced parking resources - these can just roam or idle in compact storage, instead of requiring parking spots at every house and every destination
      - Vastly reduced traffic congestion - since traffic is controlled by robotic overlords
      - Get as drunk as you want while you "drive" - or alternately, work, play, etc. while you are transported

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dmala (752610)
        Another huge benefit: no schedule. A bus or a train with a fixed schedule can make it very difficult to be flexible with work hours. Stay 10 minutes late, and you can spend hours waiting for the next bus or train or making other arrangements if you miss the last one. The idea of being able to just show up at a station at any time, hop in a pod, and head directly to my destination is very appealing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Goalie_Ca (584234)
        Notice though the whole city has to be designed around this concept.
    • by Kozz (7764) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:53AM (#26798969)

      I've got no concrete info to back this up, only my gut -- but I wonder if providing small, relatively private transportation pods could backfire (as much as I would like it to succeed).

      People may feel like the pod they're currently in is "theirs". And we've seen what people do in their own cars and how they can treat them: eating, smoking, littering, f#%&ing, you name it. Then consider also what people do in/on city buses and subway systems. After a pod has been in service for the first 48 hours, will it be clean/sanitary enough that others will want to use it?

      I certainly wouldn't want to find people's stale McDonald's french fries, mysterious sticky substances on the seats, etc. At least on mass transit, you're sharing the space so there's a certain social pressure to respect others to some degree, but would this evaporate in the privacy of "your own pod"?

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Then consider also what people do in/on city buses and subway systems. "

        Never been on or seen one (especially a subway)....please elaborate, what do people do on them?

    • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:15PM (#26799293)

      One big train or bus logically can only come by every so many minutes. You don't want to wait 15 minutes. Plus it can only follow a specific route.

      For example, my office is 10 minutes away by car. Yet if I were to ride the bus that goes there it would take 1.5 HOURS because first I have to wait 15 minutes for it to show up, then I have to ride downtown to a central station, wait another 15 minutes for the bus going to where I want to go, and then ride that bus. All the way these buses are starting and stopping and go maybe overall 1/2 the speed of a car.

      I don't have 1.5 hours of free time to spend commuting. Judging by the ridership, nobody else that is gainfully employed does either.

      Now, if we had say smart electric taxis that would show up when I need my ride and go directly there at speed, it would be basically a no-brainer. I'd be on it in 5 seconds. Even if it DID go half as fast as a normal car, so what? I can live with 20 mins if it will save me money. I might even do it if it cost the same.

      • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dasunt (249686) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:11PM (#26800205)

        For example, my office is 10 minutes away by car. Yet if I were to ride the bus that goes there it would take 1.5 HOURS because first I have to wait 15 minutes for it to show up, then I have to ride downtown to a central station, wait another 15 minutes for the bus going to where I want to go, and then ride that bus. All the way these buses are starting and stopping and go maybe overall 1/2 the speed of a car.

        I don't have 1.5 hours of free time to spend commuting. Judging by the ridership, nobody else that is gainfully employed does either.

        It's called a bicycle. Get some fenders, a good lock, and add a pannier or two for your work clothes.

        Travel slowly so you don't sweat (say around 10mph or so).

        If your office is 10 minutes away by car, odds are it is within two or three miles, should be easy to reach it within 20 minutes or so.

        • I CAN and have, and do bike it, but that works only from May to September in Vermont. Right now today the roads are entirely impassible to bicycles.

          In any case, the commute time argument still holds, 10 miles is a good 45 minute ride. Less than the bus, but it is requiring a certain degree of commitment of time.

      • Parking lots (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tknd (979052)

        The problem with the US is suburbs and city planning around automobiles. Go on Google maps, look at Los Angeles. Next to every large building you'll see giant parking lots. Next to many homes you'll see driveways and/or roads wide enough for street parking.

        Now go to a large city in Europe or Japan. You'll still see parking lots and roads. But you'll find that there are fewer parking lots and the roads are narrow. If you have street view you'll see the buildings are taller and less spread out.

        All I'm p

      • Cars don't scale (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Phoenix666 (184391)

        well in dense urban environments. NYC would have to turn the entire island of Manhattan into a 10-story parking garage to accommodate the millions of people who commute in on subways and buses everyday. Also, the traffic would be a Dantean nightmare, as opposed to the nightmare it already is with a tiny minority of commuters *cough* Jerseyites *cough* driving in.

        Mass transit is also much faster and vastly cheaper. Driving from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side would take about 90 minutes with traffic. Sub

  • by Zondar (32904) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:27AM (#26798507)

    I'm assuming the system is electric, but it could only meet the "no CO2" if the electric power is nuclear, hydro, solar, etc... If it's traditional electric power, it's just moving the source of the CO2 and perhaps the efficiency.

    • I'm assuming the system is electric, but it could only meet the "no CO2" if the electric power is nuclear, hydro, solar, etc... If it's traditional electric power, it's just moving the source of the CO2 and perhaps the efficiency.

      Note the wind turbines in the background of the video.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      The video makes it look like it's solar.

    • by Rolgar (556636) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:54AM (#26798977)

      Why does that have to be a downfall of this system? The people that build the transportation don't have any power over what the city or power utility has decided to use for electricity any more than you or I, so it's out of their control. Is it the fault of somebody that lives in an apartment that the apartment has electricity from a coal plant instead of a wind farm since solar and wind are probably not feasible on site?

      This is a better option, because of efficiency, than other options, with a chance to being upgraded to renewable sources when it is feasible. Many places in the US already are moving toward more renewable sources, but do you expect even them to all scrap any investment they'd already made in carbon based electricity before renewables became viable options?

      Do what works but campaign for improvement in the next upgrade.

    • by cliffski (65094) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:08PM (#26799153) Homepage

      i think the gist is that being electric, the vehicles are therefore power-source agnostic, in terms of it being easy to get the power from renewable sources. You can just change the input and the output is fixed. With gasoline powered cars, thats not the case.

  • Heathrow (Score:5, Funny)

    by lelitsch (31136) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:29AM (#26798541)

    Oh the delicious irony of using "Heathrow" and "rapid transit" in the same sentence.

    • Re:Heathrow (Score:5, Funny)

      by drsquare (530038) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:39AM (#26798715)

      You'd be surprised how rapidly your baggage ends up 5,000 miles away from your destination.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I tried to move quickly at Heathrow, but there were all these stupid NIMBY protesters in my way, slowing things down.

      Yes, Boris, I'd love to build an airport in the Thames estuary, I'd also like a gold plated toilet seat, but it's just not on the cards now, is it?

    • by slim (1652)

      Ah, it's funny because the Terminal 5 launch was a fiasco.

      But I've travelled from Terminal 5 since then. The system for collecting your belongings from the X-ray was poorly designed, but other than that things couldn't have been smoother.

  • It appears people abandoning their cars to use this new system! http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/09/dubai-airport-clogge.html [boingboing.net]
  • Good idea, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:30AM (#26798565)
    It seems as if something like this would attract vagrants, significant vandalism and just plain disgustingness. Would be pretty cool though if major cities were only filled with people like the scientists and engineers would designed it.
    • I really wonder where this bizarre notion comes from. Do people piss in the corners of light rail cars? No. Is there always a conductor in light rail trains? No. So there can easily be a lone unattended passenger. Yet it doesn't happen with any significant frequency. Why would it be more frequent in a PRT pod that's so small you get your feet wet if you try it?

      It will be easy for anybody deploying a PRT system to keep it clean and safe and unvandalized. Even in the piggy US of A. All it takes is tr

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lagfest (959022)

        Considering that it is built in the UK, I'd be surprised if every cab didn't have a surveillance camera.

    • Re:Good idea, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:09PM (#26799173)

      It seems as if something like this would attract vagrants, significant vandalism and just plain disgustingness. Would be pretty cool though if major cities were only filled with people like the scientists and engineers would designed it.

      I don't know the particulars of this system but I can make a couple of assumptions on how this can be handled.

      1. You pay for your trip via credit card.
      2. A vehicle arrives for your use. If it is unsanitary, you press a button and it routes back to maintenance for cleaning.
      3. Any vehicle flagged for maintenance will have its passenger log reviewed. Any passenger racks up 3 sanitary flaggings by passengers using the vehicle after him will be banned from the service for a month.

      I'm less enthusiastic about putting video cameras in the cab to directly record vandalism, it could just as easily be abused as any other reasonable control people think of, but I think the flagging system should be relatively abuse-resistant. And I'd feel very pleased to see punks suffering the consequences of their actions. I for one am sick of going into a nice business and seeing the restrooms vandalized by stupid rich white kids who think they're ghetto because they listen to M&M.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:31AM (#26798585)

    So an entire community that emits no carbon dioxide. What are the inhabitants, vampires? Zombies? Undead "not otherwise specified"? This "green movement" is getting out of control when we turn to the dark powers.

    • by dkf (304284)

      So an entire community that emits no carbon dioxide. What are the inhabitants, vampires? Zombies? Undead "not otherwise specified"? This "green movement" is getting out of control when we turn to the dark powers.

      Can't be zombies. You'd get methane off them as they decompose and that converts fairly rapidly to CO2.

    • So an entire community that emits no carbon dioxide. What are the inhabitants, vampires? Zombies? Undead "not otherwise specified"? This "green movement" is getting out of control when we turn to the dark powers.

      Undead critters emit carbon dioxide as they rot. No green here, just greyish/purplish.

  • by Ian_Bailey (469273) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:32AM (#26798597) Homepage Journal

    I wonder in 20 years how these "networks" will compare to the Morgantown PRT [wikipedia.org].

  • What's the Point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:32AM (#26798605) Homepage

    Individual transport within an airport - an environment designed round mass transport?

    The Heathrow video claims '50% lower carbon emissions than buses or trains' - is that per passenger though? In a busy airport like Heathrow regular trains would be more efficient than individual transporters surely.

    • In a busy airport like Heathrow regular trains would be more efficient than individual transporters surely.

      Are you sure? Airports are often busy, to be sure, and there are lots of times where the intra-airport trains are packed full. But there are also times when those same trains are relatively empty (but still have to run). It is not fuel-efficient to move an entire train car for one or two people.

      So maybe it actually is more energy-efficient, averaged over a year of typical usage, to use small 1-4 person vehicles rather than larger vehicles designed to move 15-50 people at a time.

      Without doing a relatively de

    • by slim (1652)

      This seems to be for replacing the shuttle buses that take you from the car park to the terminal. The stops are sprawled out too widely to make a train service work.

      My experience of these buses is that you wait a long time for one, yet when it comes it's nowhere near at capacity. Then they have to take a suboptimal route, in order to pass a load of other stops, most of which have nobody waiting.

      It does seem to me that from a customer satisfaction perspective, and an efficiency perspective, reducing the MTU

  • From TFA:

    [Personal Rapid Transit] systems are supposed to combine the convenience and privacy of automobiles with the environmental benefits of mass transit.

    I was under the impression these things never caught on was because they did the opposite of the above claim: they combine the environmental detriments of personal automobile use with the inconvenience and delay of mass transit.

    The reason I say this is that if you have to build one car per person and maintain the cars and the system for the cars,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The reason I say this is that if you have to build one car per person and maintain the cars and the system for the cars, that's a huge environmental impact.

      But in a shared-car system you don't need one car per person: you just need as many cars as are required at peak usage. For any given hour of the day, many cars are actually just sitting parked.

      With fewer cars in total, it becomes more practical for those cars to be well-maintained, energy-efficient, and so on. (Convincing everyone to buy new energy-efficient cars is impossible. Migrating a communal fleet of vehicles to a new greener technology is more practical.) And if well-managed, there is no reason tha

      • by cliffski (65094)

        the real killer is that my government taxes me for just OWNING a car. As a result, I feel almost obligated to get my moneys worth and sue the fucking thing all the time.
        Any system that puts fixed costs of ownership on polluting vehicles is mental. it should be all about the marginal costs, that way people would think before using them. Where I live in the UK, not owning a car is a nightmare, so once you've swallowed the up front cost, you use it all the time.

  • I propose we call them Super Hurried Individual Transports.
  • Because I did not RTFA I have to guess the power (at least in Saudi Arabia) is coming from burning oil...

  • I've been to the UAE. The problem there is that even though they hire the best engineers in the world, the laborers building these projects typically had never seen the business end of a hammer six months before being hired.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • This looks like the old Disneyland PeopleMover [wikipedia.org] to me just with the cars separated. Hopefully the PRT will be a bit more reliable...
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:44AM (#26798807)

    I'm still a big fan of skytran. I don't know if the political and financial support is there but the economics seem reasonable and I think it's certainly an engineering possibility, not relying on unobtanium or anything wild.

    The link to the website goes into far greater detail but the nickel synopsis is this:

    1. Two passenger monorail cars using a computerized rail system to rapidly route passengers to destinations, avoiding the stop and start of traditional subway and light rail. (Monorail, yes monorail! Your simspon reference is weak, shut up.)
    2. Cars, rails and towers are designed to be light so the footprint on the ground is about the same as a telephone pole.
    3. With all the rails in the air, real estate on the ground can be used for pretty much anything, avoiding the disruptive problems and huge expense of running traditional light rail lines.
    4. Because the lines are cheaper, a grid can be laid over a sprawling metropolitan area lacking the high population densities required to make traditional mass transit viable.
    5. The goal is to have stops spread about everywhere so that where you want to go should be no more than a 15 minute walk after arrival. Current mass transit can leave you with miles to go to your destination.
    6. Since the cars are electric and make no more than a whooshing line when going overhead, they would not be as disruptive as a conventional light rail train or a city bus.

    The goal with skytran is not to replace cars but to take commuters off the road. Anyone as a single occupant in a car going places could be in one of these and free up the roads for people whose trips cannot be accomplished via skytran.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyTran [wikipedia.org]

    Of course, the real problem we're looking at here is that zero thought has been put into sustainable urban planning. We tend to ad hoc and half-ass everything together and end up with designs that are simply unworkable. But hey, that's the human way. Maybe the energy crunch can force a reevaluation of that.

    • With all the rails in the air, real estate on the ground can be used for pretty much anything

      Can be, but would it? Almost all of the passenger rail service in Manhattan was moved underground in the first half of the 20th century because of the effects the elevated train lines were having on the communities below them: the avenues were constantly dark, dirty, noisy, and unpleasant. If you've ever been under the remaining elevated lines in the outer boroughs, or in Chicago, or under Seattle's monorail, you'

  • It's called a sportbike.

  • The Heathrow thing might work. It's like the little tracked automated trams many airports have. The vehicles have some modest automated driving capability, so they don't have to have railroad switches, and they can do some passing at stations. They stay entirely on their own dedicated guideways, though; they never mix with other traffic.

    It's not really "personal". It's more like an automated bus system. This works for airports because the number of destinations is so limited.

    The Dubai effort is le

  • Rumpty tumpty time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jonnyj (1011131) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:54AM (#26798995)

    We almost bought one of these systems in Cardiff, Wales a few years back. Then the local press started speculating that the pods would be a great place for couples to indulge themselves on the way home from the pub. Thoughts of grafitti-covered pods full of condoms, used syringes and vomit killed the scheme dead in its tracks.

    This might be OK in an airport. In an inner city it would be a disaster.

  • by migurski (545146) <[mike] [at] [teczno.com]> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:15PM (#26799287) Homepage
    PRT's are not novel, they've been an engineering pipe dream for at least 60 years. There was a similar design effort in the 1970s in Paris that was the subject of an excellent book by Bruno Latour called Aramis [teczno.com]. TFA says that PRT have been previous unworkable for "a variety of reasons, including the cost of the initial systems and the difficulty of integrating them into existing cities". The Paris project got all the way to physical prototypes, built sections of track, etc., and one of Latour's conclusions is that the PRT concept is itself unworkable. It lives in an inflexible no man's land between private vehicles and mass transit: passengers can't go where they want because the system has tracks and shared "pods", and engineers can't scale it how they want because the vehicles don't have flexible open space inside to cram in more passengers during busy times. Lose-lose, all around.
  • Why do videos like this always show people hang-gliding as if that's a sure sign of 'The World of Tomorrow'? Is there some key indicator of technological advancement that is based on unpowered flight? Or are they trying to appeal to the niche sportsman?

    Also I'm glad to see all those women in the video were well covered up. Good to see that the envisaged middle east of the future still holds onto its core misogynistic values.

  • Is it easy to get out of one of these things? I can imagine somebody getting in one, picking a destination, being told that they're 'suspicious' (or the thing just breaking down) and being trapped inside one. This is not going to help anybody who has nightmares about Johnny Cab from Total Recall.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

Working...