City centers and intercity roads suffer from heavy traffic congestion – hello road rage and long commutes. To improve the situation, governments have tried to get people out of their cars and onto public transport such as trains, trams, buses, subways/metros and bicycles. Clearly the government needs help.
Private industry has come up with some interesting ideas, which are presented in this post, the top ten list of futuristic urban transport concepts.
Challenges to shifting inner city travel away from cars include poor connections between different modes of transport, long waiting times and delays and lack of comfort and privacy. Designers and engineers are now exploring new public transport concepts, which are more capable of competing with the car by offering quicker, and in some cases individualized, transportation in a new range of personal city vehicles.
The technical name for this transport mode is high-speed tracked air-cushion vehicle (TACV).
The Aérotrain sounds like something from a Jules Verne novel — a rocket powered railroad car designed to travel on an elevated monorail.
This amazing retro tech project was lead by engineer Jean Bertin in France from 1965 until 1977. Bertin passed away in 1975, and his technology was passed over in favor of high speed trains that used high-powered electrical motors. Shown above is a working prototype from 1967 that was powered by Pratt & Whitney JT12 engine. Below is an early concept model which was created in 1962 which used compressed air.
France was focused on spending serious research and development funds in the 60s which led to a French high speed railway system today. This did not happen in the US, largely because 20th Century America had space, and was able to indulge in individual travel with the automobile.
9. The Flying Train
Apart from aerodynamic drag, trains usually suffer from mechanical resistance in their drive system as well as rolling resistance from the wheels on the track. Researchers at the Kohama Laboratory, Institute of Fluid Science at the Tohoku University in Japan tried to lower overall resistance by adapting another aspect of aerodynamics on its Aero-Train concept. Using the aerodynamic wing-in-ground (WIG) effect, the Aero-Train is able to fly above the track at a height of 10 centimetres (4 in). The WIG effect occurs when flying very close to the surface. Cruising at its maximum speed of 500 kilometres per hour (310 mph), the aerodynamic lifting force becomes extremely large with a much smaller drag force.
Solar panels are placed on the guide-way’s roof, while wind generators are placed alongside in those places where wind energy is generally available. The generated electricity can be fed to the train directly or stored in its on-board batteries. The researchers expect the system to generate much more energy than is consumed by the Aero-Train, thereby making it double as an electric power plant.
The next stage in the development is to build a larger Aero-Train prototype with room for six passengers and a maximum operating speed of 350 kilometres per hour (217 mph). The final, full-scale Aero-Train, with a length of 85 metres (279 ft) and seating capacity for 325 passengers, is aimed to begin service in 2020.
*click the pictures for larger image*
The American company UniModal Transport Solutions developed a concept for a very high-capacity and high-speed Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) network.
SkyTran is a new transportation system in development at NASA Ames Research and other locations. It’s a complete re-imagining of travel: vehicles that drive themselves on elevated “guideway” micro-freeways so light they can be supported by utility poles or attached to buildings. SkyTran will have about 200-MPG equivalent energy efficiency, twice the Automotive X Prize requirement. Its elevated guideways can be built quickly, without disrupting neighborhoods. They will cost much less to build and maintain than mass transit lines or freeways, but carry more people.
SkyTran vehicles will wait like taxicabs at boarding platforms above sidewalks or attached to buildings’ upper floors. You just sit down, tell your computer “driver” where you want to go, and relax. It merges onto the elevated micro-freeway and drives nonstop to your destination, then parks itself after you get out.
With no engine, tires or batteries, a SkyTran vehicle is small, light and aerodynamic. It consumes 1/10 the energy of a car, even at higher speeds.
Computer-controlled SkyTran vehicles, mechanically locked to micro-freeways (with no intersections) above the traffic, will be much safer than cars. In emergencies, their brakes can stop much faster than a car, since they are protected from weather inside the guideway shell. Because of the closer spacing this permits, a single guideway has the passenger capacity of a three-lane freeway.
ULTra stands for Urban Light Transport, developed by the British company Advanced Transport Systems (ATS), and offers on-demand personal transport with virtually no waiting time to take individual passengers non-stop to their chosen destination. The low-floor vehicles have a seating capacity of four, with some additional standing room or space for a wheelchair. Although maximum speed is limited to 40 kilometres per hour, the non-stop service can make trip times two or three times faster than other urban transport. The system operates with a fleet of driverless electric vehicles, running on a network of elevated or ground level guided routes. The first ULTra (Urban Light Transport) system is at Heathrow airport in London.
Passengers use the system by going to the nearest station on the network. Via a smart card process they select their desired destination. The passenger destination is passed to central control, which in turn sends the nearest available vehicle in the network to the station. According to ATS, simulations demonstrate that waiting times average around 10 seconds. The empty vehicle management system redirects empty vehicles to places with known demand and ensures that batteries are reloaded at a docking station when power is low. The lack of a power supply rail on the track significantly reduces infrastructure costs.
6. JETPOD – The Flying Taxi
Developed by the British company Avcen, the Jetpod is a small twin-jet aircraft with newly developed VQSTOL (Very Quiet Short Take-off and Landing) technology.
According to Avcen studies, there is a considerable demand for the Jetpod. Avcen’s solution to urban traffic congestion is to provide air taxis which shuttle service between an outer city ring of park-and-fly sites and a number of STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) strips within the city centre.
One of the proposed versions of the civil Jetpod T-100 is the City Air Taxi. Other versions include the P-200 Personal Jet, the M-300 Military and the E-400 Ambulance. The T-100 City Air Taxi could be operated as a free-roaming air taxi – with more than fifty landings a day, using a rotation of pilots.
75 Jetpods would service a city the size of London and thereby relieve road traffic of 37,000 return car journeys every day. A one-way flight from outer London to the city centre would take just 4 to 6 minutes. The Jetpod doesn’t even require a conventional runway. It can land on grass, dirt or stone-strewn areas. Avcen designed the Jetpod using the latest jet engine technologies for optimal fuel efficiency and lower emissions noise levels, when compared to car transportation.
5. Bus Rapid Transport
The Phileas BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) vehicle, developed by the Dutch company Advanced Public Transport Systems (APTS) can drive itself automatically on a dedicated track as well as being manually driven on normal roads. The Phileas system is in fact active and has been in use since 2004. A hybrid-electric drive makes the vehicle up to 30 per cent more fuel efficient than other buses of comparable size.
In semi-automatic mode the driver accelerates and brakes manually, while the vehicle steers itself. In automatic mode all three functions are performed by the vehicle with speeds up to 70 kilometres per hour (44 mph). An electronic guidance system is following the magnetic markers mounted every 4 to 5 metres in the road surface for reference. If deviations of more than half a metre (1.6 ft) occur, either in automatic or semi-automatic mode, the vehicle is automatically stopped.
Superbus is a new concept for sustainable mobility, which consists of a new vehicle, new type of dedicated infrastructure and new logistics. For this new concept, all of the intelligence and innovation is put into the vehicle, whereas the dedicated infrastructure, where the Superbus runs at 250 km/h, is made of relatively cheap concrete roads. The vehicle is 15 meters long and provides seating for 23 passengers. In order to improve comfort and to allow individuality, it has 8 doors per side.
Superbus does not have a fixed schedule and the logistics allow for flexibility in high volume transport on demand, via a central routing optimization system. Thus the vehicle transports passengers from target to destination without the need for changeovers. Because Superbus is able to operate at very high speeds, it presents a viable alternative to high-speed railway lines.
This highly streamlined electric bus can also be driven at lower speeds on existing roads and bus lanes. With a length of 15 metres (49.2 ft) and a width of 2.5 metres (8.2 ft), the Superbus has similar dimensions to a conventional bus. Due to the seating arrangement without a centre aisle however, the height is just 1.7 metres (5.6 ft). The low aerodynamic drag (less than 0.2) makes the Superbus more efficient than a passenger car.
The vehicle has three axles with 6 electrically driven wheels. Whether this is achieved by utilizing an on-board battery pack or fuel cells has not yet been decided. For increased passenger comfort, the suspension system can actively respond to known humps and bumps in the road. This knowledge about the road surface along the route is stored in a central computer. A radar system in the front can detect obstacles up to a few hundred metres down the road and accordingly brake or steer the vehicle to avoid a collision. The road surface of the designated concrete tracks can be heated during winter, in order to melt ice and snow, using solar heat stored in the summer.
3. Personal Flying Saucers
In 2007, the first flying saucer was made for consumer markets. The saucer glides three metres above the ground and carries two people. US manufacturer Moller International makes the Jetsons-like personal flying pod, called the M200G Volantor. The M200G is the size of a small car and is designed to take off and land vertically. Company founder Dr Paul Moller calls the craft “the ultimate off-road vehicle” as it isable to travel over any surface. The company says that “it’s not a hovercraft, although its operation is just as easy”.
The flying saucer is designed to fly at an altitude of up to three metres, where it benefits from extra lift created by a cushion of air – known as ground effect. This allows the M200G to glide over terrain at 50mph, powered by eight of the company’s Rotapower rotary engines.
2. Personal Hovercraft
This is not the big hovercraft that moves armies and military vehicles. In this case, we are talking about a personal hover vehicle; imagine the Segway but floating – and cooler.
Bored with driving to work or even to the parties in your new Porsche 911? Then how about just gliding to work a few inches above the surface and arriving at a party as if you are some kind of rock star from a different planet! Then the Hover Scooter is pretty much your simple choice with its unique experience of providing you with a mini hovercraft that allows you to go around with class and comfort. Designed with comfort and personalized service in mind, the Hover Scooter, priced in the $17K range, is a fun vehicle and really lifts you a notch above the pedestrian stuff around you… quite literally.
Easy and intuitive to control, the Hover Scooter comes with a gasoline powered engine that runs the Hover for an hour on full tank. The Hover comes in a color choice of the customer and the options available are Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. It is a very safe vehicle to travel on and the wide space for standing and the simple handling make it a complete delight. I wonder if you can take this over the water like a hovercraft though? Would like to find that out for sure.
1. Roadable Aircraft
Quite simply, roadable aircraft are cars that convert to planes – a flying car – or, inversely, a road-legal drivable plane. Very James Bond-ish stuff, and it is actually here, with models due to hit the market withint the year. For an interesting read and more details on roadable aircraft – Flying Cars – including one that can actually be purchased today – click here.