Imagine if you will, a cityscape filled with flying cars on a multitude of levels, people commuting to and from work, the day’s commerce unhindered by the restraints of gravity or typical traffic congestion. Science fiction?
Not if the innovative SkyTran has anything to say about it.
Originally invented and conceived by Douglas Malewicki in 1990, SkyTran is a Personal Rapid Transit system consisting of lightweight, driverless two-passenger vehicles. These “pods” are suspended from elevated passive magnetic levitation tracks, or “guideways,” and are proposed to be capable of achieving speeds of around 100 miles per hour with the equivalent of 200 miles per gallon fuel economy.
What about Hybrids, you may ask.
With the pods weighing only 300 pounds, SkyTran believes that only one-third of the electricity consumed by today’s typical hybrid car will power their vehicles.
SkyTran plans to abolish the conventional central stations with train schedules, replacing them with an above ground grid system containing multiple off ramps where users can board smart phone ordered pre-booked transportation:
The next big innovation is going to be in automated transit. Transportation will just recede into the background of lives, as something that just happens automatically. I think about where I want to go, tell a computer where I want to go and it just takes me there — seamlessly.
– SkyTran Director and CTO John Cole
A prototype of the pods and a section of track have been built on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel. The preliminary 400 meter trial run is set for late 2015 and will be held at the Israel Aeorspace Industries campus, in hopes of gaining proper certifications to construct 20 kilometers of the guideways throughout Tel Aviv for public use by 2018. If all goes well, there are full intentions to expand the project into cities spanning Asia and Europe.
We can build on sidewalks, buildings, anywhere really and create a whole host of stations for people to choose from.
– SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders
Conventional roads and railways are expensive to set up and maintain, requiring a high amount of available land- an asset in short supply for many cities. One solution is to build underground subway systems, which has served well in many high population cities throughout the world.
But the cost can be crippling.
CEO Sanders boasts that SkyTran’s system can be constructed for a meager $10 million per mile.
A United Kingdom based smart cities expert, Joe Dignan claims that there’s a great deal of promise in the automated transit:
The litmus test is, would you use it yourself? And I would certainly use it. I can see it very much useful for emerging economies and particularly cities that are developing from scratch.
Managing Director of the City Science Initiative at MIT Ryan Chin disagrees however. He is a bit more concerned about the additional environmental infrastructure caused by such a system:
Personal Rapid Transit systems like this one in the last several years may make sense in some limited applications like an expansive airport, university/corporate campus, or something like an expo (take Shanghai or Dubai). The construction and operation of the SkyTran infrastructure is not an inexpensive proposition considering you need to have stations that bring people up and down, and in places that don’t have enough urban density this will be too far for people to walk to and from and likely remain car dependent.
Sanders remains undeterred. In his transportation utopia, commuting trauma will be a thing of yesterday. Suburbanites will cast away their traditional vehicles, tailoring their transportation and timetables to suit their own schedules:
Being stuck in traffic is just the most stress-inducing, soul-crushing part of society today. We really want to make people’s lives better and elevated, high-speed transportation is the answer.
Watch a video on this new technology below: