Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Japanese Researchers Test Flying Trains

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the mind-the-gap dept.

Japan 221

An anonymous reader writes "As an alternative to maglev trains, Japanese researchers are working on ground-effect vehicles. A ground-effect vehicle takes advantage of fast-moving air and uses some stubby little wings to fly just above the ground, like a maglev without the mag. This is a tricky thing to do, since you have to control the vehicle more like an airplane than a train: you have to deal with pitch, roll, and yaw and not just the throttle. A Japanese research group has built a robotic prototype of a free flying ground-effect vehicle that they're using to test an autonomous three axis stabilization system."

cancel ×

221 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Problem: (0)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090728)

What happens if I throw a penny (or a rock) on the tracks?

Solution: (2)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090734)

No tracks.

Tracks? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090746)

Where we're going, we don't need tracks.

Re:Tracks? (1)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091562)

Who said Back to the Future was the only flyable train? I would put forth a few more trains that treated time lines like actual tracks; Denliner & Zeroliner from Kamen Rider Den-O. All we need now are a few good imajin, an eccentric owner, plus a few other out of existence denizens.

Re:Problem: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090738)

I think the allegory here would be a cow fart.

Re:Problem: (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090802)

It would fly over it or you'd punch a hole in the thin aluminum fuselage of the traincraft.

I don't know what to say. (1, Funny)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090736)

I, uh, hmm. Okay. In Bizarro World, do they also have Submarine Cars and Space Boats?

Re:I don't know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090768)

Dunno bout' Bizarro World, but I thought I saw that once in a Bond movie...

Oh, and how about a hybrid approach? Start on wheels, then switch to ground-effect once the lift got high enough, with magnetic guidance (could use existing rails for that, since you are just pulling horizontally on it, and steel is magnetic).

Re:I don't know what to say. (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091020)

Konichiwa and welcome aboard Space Cruiser Yamato DWMorse-san!

Yamato? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091580)

Surely you mean Galaxy Express 999, [animenewsnetwork.com] considering the

Granted, both are created by Leiji Matsumoto, so it is understandable that one could get confused.

Re:I don't know what to say. (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091174)

A submarine car has already been made back in ~1998.

Re:I don't know what to say. (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091300)

I'm sure I remember one from 1961 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I don't know what to say. (2)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091364)

Hehe... You might find this video [youtube.com] interesting... =)

Re:I don't know what to say. (1)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091316)

Way off on date. "The Spy Who Loved Me" came out in 1977.

seems to occupy a lot more space (2)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090754)

This one needs a wing span space, not as thin as current trains. But if this design saves a lot of energy, why the heck not. This is really like a low flying airplane which sounds like a cool idea.

Re:seems to occupy a lot more space (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091406)

I can't see how it could save energy. At it's simplest, maglev requires two permanent magnets to provide the "lift" (or technically, the repulsion) and then some motor to provide the forward motion. This requires a motor to provide the forward motion and the lift.

Or put another way, maglev must overcome the friction of the body. This must overcome the friction of the body and the wings.

The only possible energy savings that I see is that the current generation of maglevs use superconducting magnets which require a refrigeration unit to remain magnetic. But (crossing my fingers here) future high temperature superconductors should be able to work at room temperature (i.e., the operational temperature of the train).

Re:seems to occupy a lot more space (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091746)

It sounds like you know a lot about aerodynamics. Thanks for your insight.

A bit OT but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090756)

Maybe this will be the way we finally get flying cars.

Re:A bit OT but (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091098)

Ground effect principle really works best for flat surfaces like over the water, similar to a hovercraft it creates a pocket of air beneath it, but instead of using a skirt, it flies by the forward movement forcing air under the craft and its low position to ground preventing it from escaping out the side.Ground effect only works (an extra 50% lift compared to normal wings at a higher altitude) at half of your wingspan above the ground so in order to clear a small hill of say 5 meters you need a wing span 10 meters long; may as well finish the job and build a plane (however you would be getting good fuel economy if you kept it that close to the ground). So cars aren't a good candidate for a ground effect vehicle but a boat flying over small waves or a train traveling a fairly flat route are good options.

Re:A bit OT but (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091204)

...works best for flat surfaces like over the water...

Well, if you actually knew about water you would know that, on this planet, it isn't really flat. The only spot you will find flat water surfaces is on lakes (which accounts for about 10% of global water surface). The turbulences of the open seas + turbulences in air pressure created even by the smallest wave movements, when something is moving above them very fast, make using ground effect notoriously difficult since the under-body has to sustain very heavy punishment in case of actual grounding.
This is why there is no such thing as small or medium ground effect transport on land or sea since for smaller objects you have to be too close to the ground to generate the effect in the first place leaving no space for surface deviations (or small pebbles for that matter).
This is why there are no ground effect super freighters either because the bigger you build them the harder they fall.

ground effect sounds nice but if I'm going to dream about a form of transportation that is purely academical I'd choose ftl [wikipedia.org] or mater through data relay [wikipedia.org] ;-)

Re:A bit OT but (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091214)

On another note I should have read the whole post!

Re:A bit OT but (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091230)

The only spot you will find flat water surfaces is on lakes (which accounts for about 10% of global water surface).

- I think you WAY overestimate the amount of non-ocean water on this planet.

Bolox (2)

Zemran (3101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091358)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgtaeRZjWNc [youtube.com]

The Russians mastered the use of ground effect to fly 500 ton aircraft over the sea, beneath the radar. The ekranoplan was reaching speeds of 400 mph over sea in the middle of the last century. This is not even new technology. The Swedes were making them before the last war.

Bolox (1)

Zemran (3101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091370)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgtaeRZjWNc [youtube.com] [youtube.com]

The Russians mastered the use of ground effect to fly 500 ton aircraft over the sea, beneath the radar. The ekranoplan was reaching speeds of 400 mph over sea in the middle of the last century. This is not even new technology. The Swedes were making them before the last war.

Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090758)

I've been putting ground effects on Japanese vehicles for years.

Unless the walls are completely transparent (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090764)

the view would totally suck

I fail to see the point.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090766)

As cool as this idea sounds, is it really a reliable mode of conveyance? I envision this causing more problems than it hopes to solve. Actually, what problem is this solving? The fact that our trains don't fly yet?

Re:I fail to see the point.. (2)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090798)

High speed rail without expensive high powered magnets, maybe?

Re:I fail to see the point.. (2)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090826)

300+ mph without all the expensive and fragile magnets required for maglev trains, while still powered by overhead electrical lines.

Re:I fail to see the point.. (2)

Professeur Shadoko (230027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091140)

300+ mph without all the expensive and fragile magnets required for maglev trains, while still powered by overhead electrical lines.

AFAIK a good part of the trouble they had when running the french TGV to >550km/h speeds was related to the overhead electrical lines. Waves propagating along the line and preventing a good contact between the line and the train.

Plus with this kind of train, there is no ground connection. So they would need two overhead electrical lines.

Re:I fail to see the point.. (2)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091464)

I'm actually now designing software which calculates the parameters for the hardware that supports the power lines.
It's amazingly precise and complicated. Even at 200km/h tracks, the tolerances where the line should be in the sky are in millimeters. For example, there should be enough tension to hold the line almost straight, but not quite straight. You have to let it hang just enough so the that the weight of the line holds it firmly to the receiver on the train.
You have to account for tilted rails in turns. You have to move the line over the rails in a zig-zag so as not to stress the receiver from one point only. Then you have to account for turns, where the train goes on a nice radial track, but the line moves straight from pole to pole.
Etcetc... It is very interesting and perhaps the most math and physics hard project I have ever been involved in in my +10 year development career.

Anyway, it makes my mind boggle to even think how precise the electricity feed line has to be installed in some 500m/h tracks.

Re:I fail to see the point.. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090992)

It helps solve the lack of flying cars. I don't care if it has to be fueled by puppies and orphans. I want a flying car.

Re:I fail to see the point.. (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091106)

Not going to help the flying cars department. Unless we built new roads everywhere that were flat. I explained in more detail above.

Re:I fail to see the point.. (3, Insightful)

indre1 (1422435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091170)

It's all about bringing the Caspian Sea Monster [gamellama.net] back to life on dry land!

You have been warned.

Ekranoplan have existed since the 60s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090776)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground_effect_vehicle [wikipedia.org]

How is this news?

Re:Ekranoplan have existed since the 60s (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090846)

Okay then. Make it carry 1500 people and operate it in urban areas as rapid transport and you'll have one-upped these guys.

But Most Importantly (1)

Nukedoom (1776114) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090784)

...will you be able to do a barrel roll?

Re:But Most Importantly (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091078)

Only if Slippy is in trouble.

Ok (2, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090790)

So if you look at the article, doing it this way does NOT eliminate the track. There's still a complex track that the train runs in - that U shaped concrete trough that you can look at in TFA. The walls of the trough prevent gusts of wind from shoving the train around. The control system would have to be extremely precise, and able to react very quickly to events like a big gust of wind. I would guess the 'train' car has wheels.

Advantages - the track doesn't have coils or magnets in it. But one glance reveals that it's still an extremely expensive, complex effort to build the track - probably millions of dollars per mile.

Disadvantages : in every respect, it's still a high speed train. The ground effect trick is to achieve faster speeds without magnets, that's all. If you board one of these, you have to be going to a specific destination all the other riders are going to. Every stop slows it all down. Most of the time you save on one of these you lose due to waiting to board the train, walking to the train, etc. And you're crowded in with the public.

And while you eliminate the need for coils in the track, you have to use even MORE concrete and steel to make the cage visible in TFA, and you now need an extremely high performance control system in the train that needs to work for the train to not crash.

In short, it's a terrible idea. What we need are cheap robotically controlled cars that run on a switching network that go from starting point directly to individual destination. These cars don't even need to be all that fast, and could use conventional technology (except perhaps using capacitor banks and frequent charging points or something...but conventional tires, road, etc...we'd use the road network we already have and install fencing and barricades and bridges so no pedestrians can ever enter the streets)

Re:Ok (1)

Micklat (986895) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090862)

What you describe (robot taxis) sounds somewhat sensible for in-city traffic. Aren't high-speed trains meant for cross-country traffic? Particularly if the robot taxis aren't very fast, as you suggest.

Re:Ok (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090866)

First off, concrete is cheaper than magnets. You'd need the control system anyways to run a maglev train. And when you're talking about a trunk line that's already moving hundreds of thousands if not millions of people on a regular basis, it doesn't matter that everybody is going the same route. No, you've got it half right: combine the two. Have a high-speed trunk line and then the cheap switching cars branch off from major stations.

Re:Ok (5, Insightful)

PIC16F628 (1815754) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090898)

Conventional (wheel on rail) Trains have far more advantages than a individual car for most journeys:

1. Very low energy consumption because of metal to metal rolling friction. Car tyres bend to become a plane of rubber in contact with sticky tar causing very high friction. Yes, the packet switching analogy is nice and best for computers but not for people. Because people will use the car more and more. See the bad points below.

2. A thousand cars driven by thousand individuals has a far bigger probability of accident simply because 1000 minds are involved without any central oversight. Who knows what these minds are doing on the road. A train is centrally controlled with professional crew.

3. When you have a car and the road is free and there is parking space, you will use it to go the next street to buy milk. In effect we will use a hammer all the time for all the jobs because the hammer is easy to hold and use. The moment public transport has to be used, you will make a trade-off analysis and use it only when required. Saves the planet, saves your limbs from degeneration.

4. Trains uses far lesser space. Compare a 8 lane highway with a two-lane railway track. Not only do cars need lot of space while moving, they lot of space at both origin and destination. Since destination can be anywhere, you need lot of space everywhere. What a sheer waste of resources.

5. You can be a zombie in a car or enjoy relaxing and eating and sleeping and reading and listening in a train.

Re:Ok (2)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090960)

But that's just it. You can't go down the street to Walmart for some groceries without a car. Even if there were buses, they are full of just anyone - including scary people that the American public has been conditioned to fear. (yes, I know rationally that that scraggy guy who smells funny is probably not an axe murderer or rapist...but does a woman bringing her 2 kids know that? This is why no one rides the buses unless they can't afford anything else)

And we've spent uncountable amounts of money creating a whole country based on cars. Sure, if most people lived in multi-story apartment dwellings, you could drastically reduce the residential land areas of a city and the number of starting points and destinations for a bus or train network. The suburb didn't exist before the car. All that sunk money - all those streets and all those houses - represent a cost that cannot be thrown away. America is a rich country, but even America couldn't afford to demolish all it's existing infrastructure in favor of public transit using conventional technology.

Hence my robot taxi idea. Robot cars cannot function with known software methods if other human drivers and pedestrians are allowed onto the roadways. But if we surrounded every roadway used by the robot taxi network with fences (including a barrier on top), with automatic sliding doors at boarding/disembarking points, we could use robotic cars with conventional software driving them. The roads would all be explicitly marked with RFID tags in the pavement, a special material would mark the lanes that would be easily to detect by the car's sensors, and every vehicle on the road would have several markings on the front, back, and sides to make them easy to detect. So each vehicle would know exactly where it was, the distance to the nearest car, and so forth. A single chip solution would run all of the software (with a redundant system on a chip or two checking for errors).

So if you lived on a little used side street, the nearest stop might be down the street a bit. If you wanted to go shopping, you'd request the car that picks you up to have room for a shopping cart. (you'd either bring your cart from home or rent one from the store). If you didn't feel like walking, you could ride a motorized wheelchair right to the pickup point and summon a taxi that was designed for it. Multiple private firms would be in charge of the interior fixtures and cleaning of the robot taxis, so there would be differing grades of service - from a leather lined 'executive class' robo taxi that the supplier has cleaned between each passenger to a vinyl lined 'economy class' taxi that is cheap.

You'd specify your destination ahead of time, and the transit routing computer would make sure there was space for your entire trip on each segment of road at that future moment in time. (for example, if a 1 mile segment of road had the capacity to hold 500 vehicles between 5:05 and 5:07 it would increment the number of vehicles allocated to that segment by 1). If there was no possible route that you could take that would not delay other riders, you would be offered a car pool option or charged a higher rate. If you had a medical emergency you could get priority routing straight to a hospital.

Re:Ok (5, Insightful)

ryanov (193048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091046)

First of all, no one should shop at Walmart period. It is a soulless evil company at all respects that hurts all of us on a daily basis. Second of all, thanks to their tax cheating ways, no one lives down the street from a Walmart anyway. There are plenty of grocery stores in reasonably built areas that are walking distance. Many of them even deliver.

Second of all, you absolutely can buy groceries on foot -- ever heard of a cart?

Third, sunk money? All of the road maintenance and fuel and costs to the environment are on-going. Slowly moving to a model that makes economic and efficient use of space will save money in the long run.

Really, all of your problems have been solved already: people not living in places that are less dense than streetcar suburbs. Raise the price of gas over time, people will move, and we don't have to deal with all off this robot cockery.

Re:Ok (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091610)

Doesn't Walmart, more than pretty much any company, pass the savings to customers?

It has a mere 4% profit margin, compared to many companies they're a saint.

Re:Ok (2)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091096)

So basically what you are saying that since it's a bad idea for the US to implement this, it's a bad idea for everyone? You know, different countries and cultures have different needs and priorities :)

Maybe it really is a bad and impractical idea for the US to implement a system like this, even if the US as a society really should look into ways to reduce their dependency on conventional cars - if nothing else than for the fact that the rising gas prices means the average american uses more and more of his disposable income on fuel. Perhaps your idea for a automated taxi cab system is just the right thing to do that, I don't know.

But perhaps flying trains is a great idea for Japan, since people there already uses public transport to a large degree for their every day travel? If they can shift more people faster using less energy and with a lower investment in infrastructure, more power to them. From their point of view, it's probably a much more sensible idea than a huge fleet of tiny robot taxies hogging up their roads.

Different strokes for different folks - just because an idea won't fly where you or I lives, it don't mean it's an bad idea.

Re:Ok (2)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091380)

But that's just it. You can't go down the street to Walmart for some groceries without a car.

Why not?

This is why no one rides the buses unless they can't afford anything else

No one rides the bus because is 90% of America the bus doesn't go where you want it to go, when you want it or in reasonable time. In places like NYC where it does most everyone is perfectly fine taking public transportation.

But if we surrounded every roadway used by the robot taxi network with fences (including a barrier on top),

And where would you place these magical roadways? In what empty space? Which roads would you block to existing traffic? How would you get with cross traffic?And are you aware of how bloody expensive this would be? And how ugly? NIMBY wouldn't let that get within 500 miles of them. And the first time idiot gets killed by a robotic taxi the lawsuits will kill the whole thing. Not to mention lack of street side parking, street side drop off and so on. Essentially makes the whole street near useless for all the people and businesses already on it.

Seriously, this is about the most idiotic proposal I've heard in a long time.

Re:Ok (3, Interesting)

opinionbot (1940160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091104)

Wholeheartedly agree that for trains and walking / cycling would be an excellent alternative. I own a car, but haven't driven it for over 6 months as I simply haven't needed to: walk to work (20 mins each way), walk or cycle to the shops and take the train for longer journeys.

Whilst driving can be enjoyable, there is nothing fun about motorway (freeway) driving. For long distances I'd much rather be in a train where I can walk around, stretch my legs, have a table to do some work on, even use Wifi on many of them. If I need a car where I'm going, hiring one at the other end is often pretty cheap.

Unfortunately, this is possible because I live close to the middle of town within walking distance of public transport. The dreams of living in bigger houses with individual transport far from the unwashed masses which the GP seems to object to, have lead to sprawling suburbs where it's almost impossible to walk anywhere. Either it's simply too far or because the planners assumed everyone would drive and made pavements (sidewalks) which end in 4 lane highways.

The options are then pretty limited: develop better, greener individual transport, or large-scale demolition and rebuilding in higher density areas which can be served more efficiently by public transport. Don't think the second one's going to be all that popular...

Re:Ok (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091270)

haven't driven it for over 6 months

Your car battery is probably dead by now. Better check it just in case you do decide to drive, and find you can't.

Re:Ok (1)

RobbieCrash (834439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090932)

I would imagine this would be used to replace current mag-lev trains and conventional trains, not cars. The destination point is senseless.

Re:Ok (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091004)

Let's suppose I want to go from Houston to Austin. I just get in my car, and from my driveway to my destination takes ~3 hours. (assuming I don't try to travel during rush hours, or I start at the outskirts of Houston)

This 160 mile journey consumes about $21 of fuel each way (28 mpg) plus about that in depreciation and future repairs on my car. So $40, each way. If I want to go somewhere else in Austin I could just drive there in a few minutes.

Suppose a high speed train line existed between Houston and Austin. Would it make sense? First of all, Houston is 60 miles across. I would need to take a 20 or 30 mile journey just to get to the starting point for the high speed train. I'd have to wait on a bus (15 minutes +), ride a bus (average speed 30 mph), and get to the station. Most likely a high speed train would not run more than every 15 to 30 minutes, so I have to wait for a train. If I use a taxi at any point in this journey to save time, the cost goes up enormously, I might note. How much is a high speed train ticket? No idea, but I have a feeling I wouldn't save money.

So after waiting on a bus to get to the train station (~1 hour), waiting for the train (lets say 30 minutes), I start on the journey. Suppose the train goes 200mph, and including speed up and slowdown takes 1 hour. Ok, so I am there. Now I do the same thing in reverse to reach my destination : several buses. Another hour gone.

So this trip has taken more time, even in a best case scenario. And at my destination, I don't have anything I couldn't carry with me. No large toolkit or a lot of supplies or anything large.

If my labor is worth $20/hour (a livable wage in USA), the extra time I had to waste destroys any money I saved.

For longer distances, planes of course rule the trip..even with TSA goons slowing everything down. For shorter distances, it's even more in favor of cars.

Conclusion : the reason high speed trains won't work is because there is no way to get to the train station that won't waste more time than just driving to your destination.

Re:Ok (2)

RobbieCrash (834439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091062)

You are aware that Japan has a very large network of transportation trains, many of them high speed [wikipedia.org] , as does much of the rest of the world outside of Texas, right?

You driving your car, along with 1,000 other people driving their cars from Austin to Houston uses orders of magnitude more energy than 15 busses and 2 trains to transport the same 1,000 people the same trip.

Additionally, a commute from the outskirts of Toronto, where I live, to downtown central takes ~2 hours during rush hour, that same trip takes 40 minutes on the subway, so even shorter distances can be more efficient.

Re:Ok (3, Insightful)

ryanov (193048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091066)

You're missing piece is the price of gas. Gas is artificially low now, which changes the price and which, since it's not taxed to the degree that it should be, stunts growth in mass transit partially because that money could fund transit and partially because no one has to use the train and so there is not enough demand for more service.

In your scenario, in a better case, your high-speed line would be augmented by low speed (but still fast) trains and light rail, all of which shorten the distance and the amount of time required to travel. Also, even in your current case, if you can avoid the bus, you can travel during trafficked periods because you are unaffected. And, in your current case, if that's a trip you make often, you probably live more proximate to the train.

Additionally, I have carried a lot of stuff on trains before.

Re:Ok (2)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091082)

I live in a place that HAS high speed trains (south China). I also drive. The train is great for a trip to Guangzhuo (80km) or Shenzhen (72km). Driving to either of those places is a pain in the butt and the train is pretty cheap (about $8).

There are places that they work. I've also spent a fair amount of time in Japan. The high speed trains there also work great.

All of the previous posts about suburbia are correct, but you have to look at the big picture. Not everyone lives in suburbia. I'm not an advocate of forcing people to abandon the suburban life, but there is a third option. South China has huge sprawling megalopolis type cities with a smattering of high speed rail connecting them. Overall, it's pretty efficient. Most people, when looking for a residence here, specifically ask how close it is to the train station.

With all of that being said, it will probably NEVER work in the US.

Re:Ok (2)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091152)

With all of that being said, it will probably NEVER work in the US.

It depends - I think there are certainly areas of the US where it can work, and areas where it's unlikely to. A high-volume sector like Boston-New York-Philly-Washington DC could definitely be a target for upgrading to high-speed rail, much as Japan's main Shinkansen line is across the densest part of Honshu, connecting Hiroshima-Kyoto-Osaka/Kobe-Nagoya-Tokyo. A plane might be able to carry 200 passengers, a train 10 times that easily - so there's a pay-off point with speed and capacity of the trains with high-density and high-volume routes.

The best example I can cite with personal experience is the Eurostar from London to Paris. A tube to Kings Cross-St Pancras, onto the Eurostar in about 20 minutes, and a 2.25 hour trip to Paris Gare du Nord is far easier than a onerous trip out to Heathrow (1 hr from central London), a 2 hour check-in buffer, 1 hour flight to CDG and then transport into Paris' centre.

Re:Ok (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091132)

You're talking of your own particular use case, with a reasonable income and assets. Now imagine someone who doesn't have a car, but needs to travel that same journey - a student, or a labourer with a family in Houston and work in Austin; it's a heck of a commute, but cheaper than moving the whole family. High-speed rail offers a quicker alternative to a bus service, one not affected by or contributing to congestion from private transportation.

As others have mentioned, Texas isn't necessarily the best example of where high speed trains would delivery the most benefits, and your case of using a car is also not available to everyone. Public transport provides a public good that isn't necessarily measured in purely economic terms.

Re:Ok (2)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091544)

I find it ironic that you claim a major disadvantage of trains is the amount you can carry and then you go on talking about flying.

Having high speed trains to major cities is a good idea, better for environment, you can carry more and you are way less constricted than on an airplane.

I'll grant you your example it doesn't make sense, but what if you wanted to go across the country? Airports are generally out in the boondocks, central train stations are quite often centrally located, less groping, better facilities, you can carry more and a train going 400 km/h isn't going that much slower than an airplane and it is a heck of a lot safer.

Re:Ok (4, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091748)

Let's suppose I want to go from Houston to Austin.

I've not been to Houston, but just 18,000 [wikipedia.org] people used Houston's Amtrak station last year. For comparison, 16,000 people used the station in a village [wikipedia.org] of 1,200 people in the English countryside. The nearest big city to that village, Birmingham (pop. 1M, 2M in the conurbation), has several large stations. The largest [wikipedia.org] had 25.3 million passengers last year. Less people used a train in all of Texas combined than my local suburban station, which isn't even open at weekends.

I think you'll find there is demand for trains (of all kinds) in many settlements all around the world. Fortunately, most people don't reject solutions that don't satisfy 100% of the population.

I just get in my car, and from my driveway to my destination takes ~3 hours. (assuming I don't try to travel during rush hours, or I start at the outskirts of Houston)

This 160 mile journey consumes about $21 of fuel each way ...

My parents live 100 miles away. The journey by public transport takes two hours (I allow 40 minutes to get from my house halfway out of London to the appropriate main station, the inter-city journey takes 1h10, and I like to arrive 10 minutes before the train departs) and a little walking (10 minutes). Driving, according to Google, takes 2h5. That's correct -- off-peak on a Sunday. Usually it's nearer to 2½ hours on a Sunday, or 3 hours + any other day. (The train is "normal" speed, about 110mph.)

I've no idea how much the fuel costs -- I don't own a car. My parents will take the train to visit me if it's one or two of them, but if they bring my younger brother they'll drive. I always take the train, owning a car would be a huge expense for the tiny number of journeys I'd make with it.

(Commenting on the rest of your post: if Houston built high speed rail, there'd probably be intermediate stops a few miles out (e.g. 5, 10, 20 miles) which you could travel to instead of going all the way to the centre. Even if you live on the wrong side of town [like I do for visiting my parents], the railway going in the other direction should connect to the high-speed station.
30mph average for a bus is way too high, assuming you're including stops. That's a decent speed for light rail. 10mph is more like it. For a huge city like Houston, buses only every 15 minutes would be pretty crap. Buses near my house are more frequent than that all night.
If transport is reliable, you wouldn't have to wait more than a few minutes for your train. You plan to leave at the appropriate time to make the connection. How much spare time you allow depends on the cost of taking a later train [here, booking for a specific train saves money] and the time you have to wait if you miss it.
Many destinations would be within a short walk of the station.)

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090988)

Disadvantages : in every respect, it's still a high speed train. The ground effect trick is to achieve faster speeds without magnets, that's all. If you board one of these, you have to be going to a specific destination all the other riders are going to. Every stop slows it all down. Most of the time you save on one of these you lose due to waiting to board the train, walking to the train, etc. And you're crowded in with the public.

Also, it isn't designed to drive underwater. Except, no, like your points that's irrelevant. Saying that "it's a train" isn't a disadvantage. What they're looking for is a train. They want to replace existing trains. With another train. Saying that what you want is a car or a submarine or a frying pan and that this isn't designed for those purposes says nothing about whether this is a step forwards in train design. Do you realise that people do in fact use the existing trains?

I have a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091002)

Just raise the rear of the cars up. That way you are always going downhill.

wait what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090812)

did anyone catch the
- using to test an autonomous three axis stabilization system
  autonomous

Still haven't learned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090816)

I'm surprised they would create something like this in Japan; you'd think after all those Godzilla films they'd know better than to re-create the Caspian Sea Monster.

I'm not a railroad engineer (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090848)

But wouldn't the money be better invested if they designed trains that can swim instead of trains that can fly?

Re:I'm not a railroad engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090884)

But wouldn't the money be better invested if they designed trains that can swim instead of trains that can fly?

Not after the Fukushima incident, they're still leaking and dumping highly radioactive water into the ocean and underground rivers.

Too much. (1)

lsdi (1585395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090858)

Just add those wings to the conventional maglevs, it would reduce it's weight in high speeds and it's energy consumption.

A fatal weakness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090860)

A wind gust hitting the right spot will lift the whole train off track while running at full speed.

Missing Canada tag (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090868)

This story is missing the Canada tag. Because, you know, this story is about trains and Canada has trains.

Nice! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090890)

Flying skate and flying cars now, please.

Great! The worst of both worlds! (4, Insightful)

toygeek (473120) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090926)

Its not too often you see researchers combine technologies and come up with less than the sum of their equal parts. Imagine, a transport that can crash AND derail. Woo!

Energy supply? (4, Interesting)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090940)

This might be a good idea, if they can figure out how to supply electricity to power the flying train. Tricky, because there is no ground contact, unlike a regular train, and the track itself does not propel it forward, like a maglev track does. Otherwise it has to carry its fuel, which might negate the advantages of the idea.

Re:Energy supply? (1)

Hermanas (1665329) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091434)

Why can't they still do it like the electric buses do? An overhead cable with a connection that moves with the train.

Re:Energy supply? (1)

art6217 (757847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091508)

I guess they want to resign from the wheels because of friction, noise, wearing out and maintenance. Special wheeled pantographs would likely have all of theses properties much much lower, and in an emergency could also be used as one--time spare wheels, just to brake.

Re:Energy supply? (1)

art6217 (757847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091532)

Or, they could be used as regular wheels as well, at lower speeds, when the wings are not enough, just like in the case of a regular plane.

Re:Energy supply? (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091574)

Turn the U shaped track into a big rail gun? Or at least near stations...

Hover Train! (1)

android.dreamer (1948792) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090952)

Heck yeah! I've been waiting for decent hover technology for years. Back To The Future 3 predicted correctly!

They already (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090962)

tried floating trains, but that didn't work so well...

Its an ekranoplan (2)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090966)

This is clearly a derivative of an old Soviet vehicle. They never got much use of of them because they require a perfectly flat surface in order to work properly, hence the Japanese building a specially made track for it.

Re:Its an ekranoplan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091212)

A few WIGs are used around the world as island hoppers. They can actually fly quite high off the ground/water, but use more fuel when they do.

Big heavy bombers and freighters also use WIG just to get off the ground. That is why their wings are swept down. Once they are airborne, they try to slowly gain speed in order to get out of WIG and climb further to their cruise altitude.

Re:Its an ekranoplan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091258)

The Ekranoplan seemed viable enough, politics made sure it never got much use though.

ekranoplanes don't need perfectly flat surfaces (2)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091286)

Ekranoplanes don't need perfectly flat surfaces- they were tested and ran mostly on water. Water is not perfectly flat yet the ekranoplanes ran....

Obligatory citation (1)

havana9 (101033) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090974)

But the conductor on the flying train in a black foggy alien and the passengers are a tall blonde mysterious woman and a street urchin?

Movie Fans (1)

lopaka1998 (1352441) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090996)

Don't these "researchers" have anything better to do than watch Back to the Future, Part III? I mean really - a flying train... Give me a break!

Would this really use jets? (2)

kyle5t (1479639) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091000)

In the graphic showing the concept for the final vehicle, the train appears to use jet engines. Is this really how you would do it? I thought that jets were pretty much dreadfully inefficient unless operated at altitude.

Re:Would this really use jets? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091160)

No. They are ducted fans [wikipedia.org] driven by electric motors. The tips of the vertical stabilisers have small pantographs that contact the underside of the lip at the top of the track walls. It's mostly in Japanese, but you can get the idea from some of the pictures here [tohoku.ac.jp] (e.g. this image [tohoku.ac.jp] )

Re:Would this really use jets? (1)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091244)

Thanks, the second picture nicely answers my question about how to supply electricity to the train.

Similar to previous french technology from the 50' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091084)

Similar technology, same name :

France, mid 60's :
http://aerotrain.net/English_Index.html
http://aerotrain.Fr
http://www.luftkissenzug.de (german)

USA's : 70's
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU_xXw2_1-U&feature=related

already invented: pneumatic post (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091090)

it will come to the recognition that a sort of pneumatic tube system will solve all their problems.

.

Then it will really mean it, when someone says: I'll ride the tube ;-) ( greetings to London )

Boring (2)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091128)

Russians have been playing with huge ground-effect transports, Ekranoplans, since what - the 1960's? There's plenty of WIG (Wing In Ground effect) boats around. Hardly new stuff that needs a lot of research.

Re:Boring (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091516)

The research isn't into how to use the ground effect, the research is into how to stabilize the object autonomously.

already invented: pneumatic tube post (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091138)

Pneumatic tube post will be the solution.

The power to build the air cushion beneath and on the sides can be produced converted within the craft in contrast to the old pneumatic tube model.

The air for the cushion will be sucked in on the front, reducing the drag.

The technology of electric pickups for high speed trains is there.

I think the construction cost for a length of big tube is less than for a Maglev track!

already invented: pneumatic tube post (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091146)

Pneumatic tube post will be the solution.

The power to build the air cushion beneath and on the sides can be produced converted within the craft in contrast to the old pneumatic tube model.

The air for the cushion will be sucked in on the front, reducing the drag.

The technology of electric pickups for high speed trains is there.

I think the construction cost for a length of big tube is less than for a Maglev track!

Re:already invented: pneumatic tube post (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091332)

Typical! You wait ages for a post to point this out and then two arrive together!

Re:already invented: pneumatic tube post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091446)

I see what you did there... +10, Sir!

Why? (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091162)

Honest question: What benefits would this have over mag-lev?

Re:Why? (1)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091278)

I guess the biggest one is a much cheaper track: Just a concrete through, which probably does not have to be built to as exacting tolerances as a maglev track. Heavy rain might be an interesting problem to handle. The track cannot have too large drainage holes in it, otherwise the lift disappears.

Geek Toy (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091342)

It looks like a geek toy to me. At least as train, such a vehicle would not be very practical. The main problems of todays train systems is not speed, but how many people can be moved and how can cargo be distributed more efficiently. The first thing involves two deck trains, trains without locomotive (which follow more or less the concept of a tram). The second thing has to do with shorter or easier to decompose cargo trains. So they can transfer containers from the harbors to the interior.

But cool device.

Maglev = Ground effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091410)

It's a big secret but maglev trains are ground effect trains, real maglev would be way to expensive. it's an invention tried in france and the Uk and then stolen by the US in the 70's maybe google hoovertrain. As always a dumb stupoid already invented hidden stolen and xpensified technology is presented as a smart solution CRAP!

They need a new word for motion sickness (1)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091718)

Looks like it will wobble badly with any stray gust of wind. OK for cargo, but the important question is wether you are airsick, motion sick, or even seasick.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?