You know, we’ve come to a point in time where science fiction really is becoming reality, and I’m not sure if that scares the poop out of me or excites me immensely. Let’s opt for the latter for this latest foray into the futuristic and otherworldly as we take a closer look at what was previously just a really cool computer rendering of what public transportation could look like in the future.
Now, what does public transportation have to do with a site all about driving your own car? Well, if you’d not noticed, buses take up a huge amount of space on the road, and also make frequent stops (so annoying), so imagine erasing them from the traffic scene. And not so much deleting them, but kind of getting them out of the way…
That’s what they’ve been working on in Qinhuangdao, China.
We’ve seen the computer renderings before of a giant bus/train thing that straddles traffic, riding above cars and SUVS to alleviate traffic and move those who choose to take public transit along faster than those who choose to drive (not sure how I feel about that one, but we’ll go with it for now). Essentially, the large raised bus would straddle traffic and move freely even if the rest of the street is a complete parking lot.
Now it seems the renderings have become a reality. Real-life testing started in Qinhuangdao, China as reported and Tweeted about by China Xinhua News. This elevated bus, the TEB-1, launched testing on Tuesday. At the moment, it’s limited to a 300-metre tack with only a few turns and cars to manoeuvre. This seems only natural since it’s all a bit Fifth Element to me, and requires some serious finesse before it’s put into actual practice.
Once it is approved and works like a charm, the engineers at Song Youzhou (the company that designed the straddling bus) claim this elevated mode of transport could one day hold up to 1,200 passengers and travel up to 40 mph. At the moment, the prototype is limited to just 300 passengers and very low speeds. Oh, and there’s a 7-foot space beneath for cars and trucks to fit snuggly beneath.
While all this seems too good to be true, I do have a few questions: Who’s going to pay for the infrastructure needed for passengers to actually get on the elevated, 7-feet-in-the-air bus? How is said bus going to fit under overpasses? What happens when there’s a car stalled or an accident in the “rail” on which the elevated bus’s wheels travel? Aren’t there large transportation trucks that are taller than 7 feet, what happens then?
Engineers are usually pretty smart, so I’d like to think they’ve thought all this through already. Or maybe I’m just being pessimistic and haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning. Whatever the case may be, as cool as this all seems, it is just a bit too futuristic, and something I feel us North Americans won’t see for decades, if ever.