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Transportation Earth Power Technology

Two Big Tests For Personal Rapid Transportation 299

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."
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Two Big Tests For Personal Rapid Transportation

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  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:44PM (#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. []

    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.

  • by AndrewNeo ( 979708 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @12:53PM (#26798955) Homepage
    The article (yes, I actually read it) actually compares the system to Morgantown's and why it should work better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:01PM (#26799067)

    I grow up in Morgantown, West Virginia home of WVU [] and it's Personal Rapid Transport system. The Morgantown PRT [] was the first ever built, and it sucked. Very few locals or students used it, it was often just empty cars moving down rusting rails.

    PRTs don't work. They offer the inflexibility of trains, with capacity of cars. That's not a winnings solution.

  • Re:Good idea, but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by lagfest ( 959022 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:25PM (#26799455)

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

  • by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:27PM (#26799485) Homepage
    Also a large part of the London Underground network runs without drivers: []
  • Re:Good idea, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:34PM (#26799597)

    Bonus: You get to track exactly where everybody goes.

  • by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:34PM (#26799599) Homepage
    Generally, nothing. People love going on about this, but in every city I've lived in (Canberra, Sydney, Toronto, and London )the public transport has been clean. You're much more likely to run into disastrous misplacement of bodily fluids on the street.
  • by thewils ( 463314 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:35PM (#26800661) Journal

    Some trains don't need any drivers at all. The "Skytrain" system in Vancouver is driverless.

  • Re:Good idea, but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ragzouken ( 943900 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:04PM (#26801239)
    The pattern would point to the desanitizer, not the random victims.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#26802149)

    it is funny to think that it is possible to make a taxi with no driver, but a train needs a driver even though it runs on a track.

    The Vancouver Skytrain and the Copenhagen Metro are driverless trains. I haven't been to Vancouver, but in Copenhagen the Metro is quite efficient with lots of trains, also in the nights after thursday-saturday.

  • by interstellar_donkey ( 200782 ) <> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:14PM (#26802709) Homepage Journal

    The only real problem with bikes is weather. If it were up to me, I'd ride my bike every day. But when there's a few inches of snow on top of ice, it's nearly impossible (at least for me) to get anywhere without falling over ever 20 feet.

    I guess they could start salting the bike lanes, but then you'd still have the problem if being very, very cold when you tried to get to work.

  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:16PM (#26802753)

    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.

  • As for the height thing, many cities still use horses in dense urban areas (though I've never seen them at an airport). It gives the cop a major height advantage, as well as the speed to chase down a suspect (though it's probably a little slower getting off a horse than a Segway).

    Personally, I like the horses better. Nobody asks if they can pet the cop's Segway.

  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:04PM (#26804653)

    Ah, maybe you haven't experienced Vermont. Yes, you CAN to a certain extent do that. However, riding on icy roads in the dark in the dead of winter is not highly recommended. On good days its somewhat feasible.

  • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:47PM (#26805289)

    Well its not rally a monorail, since it doesn't involve any rails (not even the one). The vehicles have rubber wheels like normal cars, and the "track" is just a piece of concrete with any electrical paraphernalia that might be needed to feed the vehicle.

    Thats actually a pretty big advantage. Its really really difficult to build switches for monorails, meaning they're mostly limited to just a single simple circuit. Switching on trains is obviously plenty doable, but its complicated and expensive. Having "tracked" vehicles working on normal rubber wheels means you can do away with rail switching altogether, which is exactly what makes it possible to have 100's of little vehicles using the the same track at the same time, heading in different directions.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.