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Two Big Tests For Personal Rapid Transportation

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the as-long-as-you-stay-near-a-charging-point dept.

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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299 comments

This will revolutionize transportation... (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798399)

just like the Segway did!

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (-1, Redundant)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798469)

Oh, I almost forgot. Frist ps0t!

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (1, Funny)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798473)

Mall cops use Segways you insensitive clod!

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

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798613)

PLEASE tell me they also say "Look at me! I'm the bum of the future!"

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (1, Interesting)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798843)

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:This will revolutionize transportation... (2, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798965)

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 to overcome being breathless right before an arrest.)

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (2, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799045)

"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 think if anything, we might want more cops walking a beat again....to keep them in good physical condition.

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799215)

I've seen a couple of cops on segways in an outside environment that makes me think a bicycle would be a better option.

My main beef with them is that you are no longer talking at eye level. They are raised up above you. The cop doesn't step off the thing to talk to you, they talk down at you then trundle off.

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798681)

...just like the Segway did!

Nice segue.

Re:This will revolutionize transportation... (1)

ethana2 (1389887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799227)

Only if they patentmonger it.

What is really wrong with trains? (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798563)

Trains need a driver. And drivers cost money!

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1, Redundant)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798651)

Trains only need one driver for potentially hundreds of people. Although 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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798963)

By all means, trains will still be used, but i can see the benefit in NOT paying 1000+ taxi drivers and having them unionup on your ass any time they feel like it!

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799019)

Trains do NOT need a driver:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docklands_Light_Railway

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799039)

Trains don't need drivers. Trains are functionally equivalent to horizontal elevators. Close the doors, travel to next stop, open the doors, lather rinse repeat. The driver can be replaced with a dollar's worth of electronics.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799163)

Trains are functionally equivalent to horizontal elevators. Close the doors, travel to next stop, open the doors, lather rinse repeat. The driver can be replaced with a dollar's worth of electronics.

Partially true. But it's much less likely for stuff to fall on the "tracks" of an elevator (since they're both vertical and enclosed). I want a driver who can stop a train if there's damage ahead or a cow lying on the tracks. Granted, you can design systems to automate this checking, but they cost more than a dollar.

That said, we have a monorail on Newark Liberty Airport that has no drivers. Works fine. I don't know if they have sensors or if they simply do periodic inspection - for such short lengths of elevated track the chances of something dangerous falling on them is probably small.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (2, Informative)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799485)

Also a large part of the London Underground network runs without drivers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DLR [wikipedia.org]

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799525)

I want a driver who can stop a train if there's damage ahead or a cow lying on the tracks.

And I want to get rid of the drivers, who don't exactly have a great "track" record [nycsubway.org] .

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:What is really wrong with trains? (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798841)

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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (3, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:What is really wrong with trains? (2)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798881)

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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (3, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:What is really wrong with trains? (2, Insightful)

Kagato (116051) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799175)

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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (4, Interesting)

eobanb (823187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799319)

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:What is really wrong with trains? (2, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799077)

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 might think so, but... (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799533)

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:What is really wrong with trains? (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798907)

And they work all night around. A blame I hold against most mass transit systems.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

Uttles (324447) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798639)

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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798735)

"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.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (5, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#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

Mod parent up ^^^^ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799133)

Mod that up. I want this now.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

ForrestFire439 (1458475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799463)

Maybe it's just me but I'd rather drive. I'm the type of guy that prefers a manual to an automatic. I certainly would prefer driving to being shuttled around by some computer. I guess it might be a good alternative to subways in cities where the roads are already too congested but for the most part I'd rather drive- even if it means paying more and being more dangerous. Also how are they going to deal with broken down units? I think flying cars are the future. People like having control.

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798931)

Trains and buses can't go everywhere cars can and these things can. That's the point. When was the last time the train or bus came to pick you up at your house or work or the mall?

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (5, Insightful)

Kozz (7764) | more than 5 years ago | (#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"?

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799091)

"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?

Re:What is really wrong with trains? (1)

midnightkiller (1327233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799061)

They won't smell like crap (unless you are a slob)

Simple (4, Insightful)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

In my day, we called these cars (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798495)

You want to talk about automatically-piloted vehicles. Shit. This morning I was driving through the downtown area and this Chevy Blazer comes flying around a corner, tires squealing and horn honking. I take a look and (obviously) it was a woman driving. Or should I say "sitting at the wheel", because her hands certainly weren't on the wheel.

Now, I'm the first one to argue that you don't need both hands on the wheel at the same time, but at least you need to have one hand on it to consider yourself driving! Jabba the Hutt in the Blazer was putting on makeup and eating a Ho Ho while careening around 2nd Ave at 30mph with no hands on the wheel. I can only assume she was navigating with her belly, because that's the only thing that could possibly have been touching the steering wheel at the moment.

You want to credit Heathrow and freaking Arabs with driver-less cars? How about the United fucking States of goddamned America? We've been pioneering this shit since London's been overrun by Asians.

Re:In my day, we called these cars (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798555)

Wow, you've really got a knack for bad analogies. First the coffee-heat-and-laptop remark, now this. Great choice picking out a username.

Re:In my day, we called these cars (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798695)

his username is like a car

Re:In my day, we called these cars (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799385)

...comes flying around a corner, tires squealing and horn honking

...putting on makeup and eating a Ho Ho while careening around 2nd Ave at 30mph with no hands on the wheel

Consistency check..................fail

"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (3, Insightful)

Zondar (32904) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798699)

Moreover, what about manufacturing emissions?

Re:"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798773)

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.

Re:"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798861)

The video makes it look like it's solar.

Re:"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (3, Insightful)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Designed to emit no carbon dioxide"? (4, Insightful)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799153)

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 (4, Funny)

lelitsch (31136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798541)

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

Re:Heathrow (4, Funny)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798715)

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

Re:Heathrow (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799009)

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?

Re:Heathrow (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799021)

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.

Very popular in Dubai (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798551)

It appears people abandoning their cars to use this new system! http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/09/dubai-airport-clogge.html [boingboing.net]

Re:Very popular in Dubai (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798645)

It looks like the designers just watched "The Incredibles"

Good idea, but... (4, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798847)

Coming in Q4 2009 ... a site devoted entirely to porn movies shot in the PRT pods.

Re:Good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798899)

With the added benefit of not being able to switch seats when someone has pissed in it, or worse.

Re:Good idea, but... (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799097)

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 transit cops on platforms. Lots of them. Come down on violaters like a ton of bricks, ALWAYS, and word will quickly spread that it doesn't pay to screw with the PRT in a city. Have uniformed personnel visible on random platforms throughout the night. Keep a flying squad at a base somewhere. It's really easy to get them to a trouble spot: put them on your PRT and send them to the destination, with priority in the system. Get in REALLY good with the local cops and prosecutors. Use some of the system revenue to pay special assessments to the city, earmarked for security. Convince the city to assign actual city cops to keep an eye on things. And put cameras at every platform (which most people would think of doing without even blinking, in today's world). I'm an engineer, not a sociologist, and I can come up with this stuff.

In short, there's a simple, human solution to the apparent simple human desire to be a slobby vandal. Get over it.

Re:Good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799353)

What you wrote doesn't sound simple or easy at all.

It sounds like some sort of fantasy movie involving numerous large committees that work together efficiently towards a common goal. BWAHaHahaha

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

lagfest (959022) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799455)

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... (5, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799201)

It seems as if something like this would attract vagrants, significant vandalism and just plain disgustingness.

So choose the pod that doesn't have the vagrant in it.

More seriously, though, while vandalism might be worse, risk of minor crime and disease could be lower depending how the system was designed. When you're on a bus or subway, you have little control over whether someone sits next to you and sneezes a bunch of virus particles into your face or whether some street gang types start making lewd comments or worse.

It all depends on how the system is designed. A well designed system could eliminate the key drawback to public transportation (having to deal with the other passengers).

where's mr. pointy? (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:where's mr. pointy? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798723)

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.

Re:where's mr. pointy? (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798763)

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.

Re:where's mr. pointy? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799267)

Skeletons don't, their flesh has already decayed off.

Re:where's mr. pointy? (1)

EZLeeAmused (869996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798919)

You mean werewolves:
one at Heathrow International Airport, near London,
and mummies:
and one in the United Arab Emirates

I wonder in 20 years... (4, Interesting)

Ian_Bailey (469273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798597)

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

Re:I wonder in 20 years... (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798889)

AFAIK, the Morgantown system is nothing more than a light rail system with extremely small vehicles.

It's also extremely small, compared to what's being attempted.

Re:I wonder in 20 years... (4, Informative)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798955)

The article (yes, I actually read it) actually compares the system to Morgantown's and why it should work better.

What's the Point? (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798605)

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.

Re:What's the Point? (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798799)

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 detailed calculation, I can't say which one would actually be better. My only point is that it's not obvious (to me at least) which one would be more efficient.

Re:What's the Point? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798937)

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 in this way is an improvement.

The only thing that bothers me is what happens if a unit breaks down and blocks the track. Hopefully someone's thought that through...

Just to clarify (1)

slackoon (997078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798643)

Go to: http://www.masdaruae.com/en/Menu/index.aspx?MenuID=69&CatID=38&mnu=Cat [masdaruae.com] It says that they are CONSIDERING using the PRT system. They are also considering Light Rail (LRT) or a combination of both. No matter what form of transportation is sounds like a leap inot the future!

bass ackwords (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798669)

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, that's a huge environmental impact. Even if the cars are "green" and run on lead-acid batteries, there's still a lot of resources that go into building them and you lose all the energy efficiency of moving large numbers of people at one time. For inconvenience of mass transit, having your own personal automobile is convenient, if wasteful. You can take it anywhere you like at any time you like and can maintain it as much as you wish, with a public transit system that you must give up, but in sharing your transit device, you are consuming less resources per capita.

Re:bass ackwords (2, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798985)

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 that such a fleet could not be just as convenient (in terms of getting a car as soon as you need one) as owning a car. (In fact there may be added conveniences like not having to worry about parking.)

In a sense it's not too different from mass-usage of taxis (as seems to happen quite a bit in New York City, for instance), of rental vehicles, or car-share services (e.g. zipcar [zipcar.com] ).

(That's the theory, at least. I'm well-aware of the practical problems of any such system, such as people not keeping the communal vehicles clean, the dangers and inefficiencies of the added bureaucracy, being reliant on someone else's (mis)management, etc.)

Re:bass ackwords (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799187)

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.

Naming the individual vehicles... (1)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798725)

I propose we call them Super Hurried Individual Transports.

Re:Naming the individual vehicles... (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799383)

Quick, someone legislate this. We need to get this S.H.I.T. on the road right away!

Wild Guess (1)

FireStormZ (1315639) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798751)

Because I did not RTFA I have to guess the power (at least in Saudi Arabia) is coming from burning oil...

The UAE? (1)

absurdist (758409) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798767)

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?

Hardly new (0, Redundant)

Hans Lehmann (571625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798781)

Morgantown, WV, has had something similar for the past 30+ years.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgantown_Personal_Rapid_Transit [wikipedia.org]

MOD REDUNDANT Re:Hardly new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799477)

You moron, the article mentions Morgantown quite explicitly and this has been mentioned by a hand full of articles already. Can you even read? Moderators, mod this retard accordingly.

Designed by Disney? (1)

shogarth (668598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798795)

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...

interesting concept (3, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:interesting concept (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799271)

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'll understand how elevating the transit system may solve some of the problems of building at grade, but also introduces many new problems of its own.

I, too, have a Personal Rapid Transportation. (1, Redundant)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798831)

It's called a sportbike.

Heathrow might work (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798863)

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 less likely to happen. Dubai is having a major recession. The extravagant construction projects that aren't well along are being scaled back.

I wish this would get better and widespread. (1)

ElSupreme (1217088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798949)

Personal Mass Rapid transit is really cool. It just needs to be setup in a way that it is analagous to a computer driving your car. With our current technology I have no idea whay this isn't being supported and promoted everywhere. Sure you have a vandal/vagrant problem, but you have that with all Mass Transit. And with some good engineering and problem solving those problems can be kept to a minimum.

Rumpty tumpty time (4, Interesting)

jonnyj (1011131) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Rumpty tumpty time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799465)

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.

There's a bit of contradiction there. How is a pod full of condoms, syringes and vomit a "great" place for couples to indulge themselves? Maybe I just didn't date the right girls back in the day but the girls I dated would have had a strong preference for "home" over "pod full of condoms, syringes and vomit".

More broadly, I imagine that a pod wouldn't be any more private than a public park but, if a couple could find a way to do it in a pod without getting caught, then so what? Sure, you wouldn't want a used condom left on the floor - but, except for the extremely rare couple that somehow enjoys leaving used condoms out in public, just put a little trash container in each pod and the problem is solved.

Do I get to be the first one to say it? (0, Redundant)

Dodder (1410959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799013)

Well I, for one, welcome our new PRT Overlords!

Morgantown WV had a PRT (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799067)

I grow up in Morgantown, West Virginia home of WVU [wvu.edu] and it's Personal Rapid Transport system. The Morgantown PRT [wikipedia.org] 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:Morgantown WV had a PRT (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799515)

The wiki article you linked has an article from the Daily Athenaeum in 2007 that says it moves 16,000 a day with 99% being students and 2.25 million a year. That seems like a lot more than "very few locas or students" using it.

Besides, the article for this story compares these new PRTs to the Morgantown and why they are better.

http://www.da.wvu.edu/show_article.php?&story_id=31053 [wvu.edu]

Another Stupid Warmed Over Futurist Rehash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799139)

This POD nonsense is just stupid, someones been watching Sleeper.

      They should be perfecting the Orgasmotron instead!

What kills this everytime, the need for individuals to maintain control and comfort over their transportation arrangements i.e. car rentals

More space, power, privacy and range and mostly safety

The POD will end up at Eurodisney and Amerodisney and if you grew up in the 60's like me, you have seen this all before with a HAL as the dashboard voice which turned out to be a Johnny Cab in Total Recall

Someone has too much time and money qnd is obviously better at making a video presentation than coming up with something original

cue the monorail

The big picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799221)

This could fundamentally change cities. Taxi rides at bus prices. Reduce emissions, no more need for parking meters, reduce ramps, gas stations, garages and lots. In busy areas at busy times you can even automate carpooling reducing traffic. Cities could be much more liveable and efficient.

A 40+ year old pipe dream (4, Insightful)

migurski (545146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799287)

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.

Hanggliders (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799365)

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.

No no no (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799531)

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.
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