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115 comments

Make For simpler driving (1)

ParamonKreel (182921) | more than 13 years ago | (#372690)

I wouldn't mind riding on rails if I could zip along at 100+ mph and not have to use the gas/electric from my own car.

A misinformed concept (2)

Ryan Koppenhaver (322154) | more than 13 years ago | (#372691)

Railways are already availible, yet most people choose to travel in their automobiles. Why? Because they value their autonomy.

Once you strap your vehicle to a rail, you lose control. If you feel like stopping, too bad, you're stuck until you get to the destination. People like having the freedom to choose their own adventure, though, and this is why the book series was so popular. The traditional novel doesn't give enough control to the reader. I predict that choose your own adventure type fiction will shortly displace the traditional novel.

This trend is not an evil to be struggled against. Rather, it is a natural evolution of literature.

This ought to really catch on with Americans (4)

dkwright (316655) | more than 13 years ago | (#372693)

Let's see, the concept uses:

Small, efficient, non-polluting cars

rails

It'll take America by storm!

At First I Scoffed (1)

sagacious_gnostic (319793) | more than 13 years ago | (#372694)

... but then I read the article and it dawned on me that this really is a cool idea. I drive to work via the same route everyday (it's a mindless monototony). If I could have this hybrid car thing, I could drive to the 'train station' and sleep most of the way to work. Then just drive a short distance the rest of the way to work. I would buy one, just for the extra half hour of sleep :-)

only 50 mph..... (1)

tiwason (187819) | more than 13 years ago | (#372695)

Its only got an average speed of 50mph....

bah...

One of the main reasons we need to do anything about our current transportation system is accidents.. I would think if your on a rail, without a human in control, or no way to hit the car next to you... the speeds should be twice that.. atleast for long distance travel..

Also.. why do the cars have to be electric powered.. can't we have a mix until batteries can last a little longer ??

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (1)

dkwright (316655) | more than 13 years ago | (#372696)

Maybe, just maybe, if we come up with a way for getting SUV's on rails we can get the populace interested. The only problem: some of these vehicles are already wider than trains.

Looks like a system ready for abuse (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#372697)

When you look at this picture [www.ruf.dk], imagine what would happen if users were lax in replacing their break pads.

Re:only 50 mph..... (1)

sagacious_gnostic (319793) | more than 13 years ago | (#372698)

But I don't think batteries _have_ to last long. Only as long as it takes to drive to the coupling device, which would hopefully only be a small distance. Once on the rail, I presume, the 'car' would be powered by infrastructure provided by the rail.

Re:A misinformed concept (1)

tiwason (187819) | more than 13 years ago | (#372699)

>>Once you strap your vehicle to a rail, you lose control

But thats where RUF comes in... did you even read it ??

2) The RUF system can cover widespread areas.

Most modern cities are too widespread to be serviced by an ordinary train system. It is not acceptable to walk more than 300 m to a station, and waiting times must be very low. It is unacceptable to have to transfer between bus and train. Consequently, people use the car instead of the train.
The dual-mode ruf can go directly from door-to-door and start whenever the driver is ready.
The rail system enables safe driving at high speed with low energy consumption and high capacity. The ruf can leave the rail at junctions along the rail (5-20 km apart) and continue as an electric car. Switching from road to rail and from rail to road is done at 30 km/h. Rail driving is fully automatic.

Re:A misinformed concept (1)

emmons (94632) | more than 13 years ago | (#372701)

If you feel like stopping, too bad, you're stuck until you get to the destination

Sounds an awful lot like the interstate, doesn't it?

----

"IT ?" (1)

ctar (211926) | more than 13 years ago | (#372702)

Is this related to "IT" that we heard about 3 week ago or so? The personal transportation device?

Re:only 50 mph..... (1)

mackman (19286) | more than 13 years ago | (#372703)

If you read carefully, you'd actually get what you want. It says the average speed on a road is 50 mph, but the speed on the rail is 100 mph. If it averages to 50 mph its because it slows down to 30 at intersections.

phooey (1)

referee (191944) | more than 13 years ago | (#372704)

This sounds interesting but I'm saving up for IT(codename Ginger). As far as I'm concerned this is too little to late. How will it compete? It won't.

A planning perspective (4)

robhranac (173773) | more than 13 years ago | (#372705)

This is a very smart idea, although it is not dissimilar to PRT (personal rapid transit) [taxi2000.com], a sort of fringe and relatively unimplemented technology. As a public sector planner, I see three things to think about with this sort of 'personalized rail' approach:

(1) Capacity - These personal rail car concepts tend to fail when it comes to extremely dense corridors. As you can imagine, heavy rail can push many more people through a single rail corridor than this sort of technology. Right now you can push about 2K cars/lane/hour, compared to densities of nearly 10K for heavy rail systems. With this technology, you could decrease headways and maybe squeeze another few K through, but:

(2) Cost - these rail systems still cost on the order of $5M US/km to build, while each highway lane only costs about $200K to build. So, you are still getting less for your tax money with this stuff. Not that I am totally against this, though. Essen (Germany) has a clever system that does this, except the cars are busses that turn into light rail. I can see these applied intelligently for mid-range suburban corridors where other forms of transit are not applicable, but this brings us to the final issue:

(3) Consumer Adoption - when you are trying to get customers to change modes and you are asking them to make large capital outlays to do so, you are asking for trouble. This is the main issue with automated highways (like those prototyped at Berkeley [berkeley.edu]). You can build the public infrastructure, but without private investment on a large scale, it does not fly.

For these reasons, I think that this might be a great transit technology, but will have a hard climb to become an accepted mode in urban areas. I guess that we will have to wait for the super-magical-mysterious panacea that is IT [theitquestion.com]!

Re:Darn (1)

mackman (19286) | more than 13 years ago | (#372706)

Just because the website is in .dk doesn't mean we're not getting it. All three of their scenarios are for US cities, LA, Seattle, and one other I can't remember right now.

Just not possible. (4)

hexx (108181) | more than 13 years ago | (#372707)

Let us be fair here. The concept is nice. Not particularly original, but nice. As far as practicality is concerned, it would be easier (and safer?) to land a man on the sun.

How on earth can one expect 10,000 vehicles (an exceedingly SMALL estimate for a major metropolitan area) to line up on tracks leading into a city?? The vehicles need to merge in order to be mounted the tracks in an orderly manner behind eachother in an interlocking fashion.

Merging in traffic is the slowest aspect of a commute, and this system makes it slower and more complicated. There's a reason cities like Los Angeles and New York have multiple 16 lane highways and double merge lanes. Expecting an increase in traffic flow from a decrease in merge efficiency is not just silly.
To quote the egg wave informerical man "it's flippin impossible".

Too bad it's not Mag-Lift (1)

mackman (19286) | more than 13 years ago | (#372708)

I don't think I'd actually use this if it came to LA any time soon, unless the train was a mag-lift bullet train. I would love to commute at 200 mph in near silence. Not to mension the rush of accellerating on one of those babies. I'd probably spill my coffee though =[

Little problems... (2)

Caradoc (15903) | more than 13 years ago | (#372709)

...shown in their "artist's concept" that make me wonder:

1) The "slot" in the car looks like it would make the chassis of the vehicle *really* weak.

2) The same "slot" forces a complete redesign of any current vehicle's chassis *and* drivetrain. Driveshaft? Cross-body bracing? Hello? Even the current "hybrid" and "alternative fuel" vehicles use the same chassis designs that have been in use for the last fifty years or so. We all know how much the automakers *love* to innovate with their main structural details - NOT!

These two points alone make me think that the company's going to have a *lot* of convincing to do in Detroit and Japan before any auto manufacturer even *considers* building to this spec.

Never catch on..... (1)

tiwason (187819) | more than 13 years ago | (#372710)

Just too many little things...

1. New rails and new cars.. (goes without saying)
2. New cars only have a 50km distance beyound rails
3. The rails have no switching.. it follows electronic rails (why not do the entire system like this??)
4. rails can not be out in the open.. (electricity like subway tracks)
5. The odd cars with a A going down the center.. more exspesive and heaveir.. move parts to upkeep.

and so on and so forth...

Extremely likely to happen, yes. (1)

Voltage_Gate (69001) | more than 13 years ago | (#372711)

Yes, this will happen. And, they say, by 1999 phones will be cordless. And by 2002, you will vacation on the moon... yes, the moon, which belongs to America!

Why Vehicles Like This Will Never Succeed (1)

Cheshire Cat (105171) | more than 13 years ago | (#372712)

On paper vehicles like this are great. If I could hook up my car to a railroad and have a hands-free drive to work for a half hour, that would be great!

Unfortunately, I would also be giving up the ability to drive the twelve hours north from San Francisco to Eugene, Oregon. And this, really, is what kills concept vehicles like this. In exchange for the intangible promise of a cleaner atmosphere and smaller gas bills, you give up a great deal of freedom and autonomy.

If someone could make a car powered by alternative-fuels, that lets me drive as far as I'd like, I think it would be a huge success. Until then, I don't think any of these are going to get beyond the prototype stage.

one problem... (2)

eric17 (53263) | more than 13 years ago | (#372713)

Come the first good sized earthquake or uplifting wind shear, these light weight vehicles will be flying off the track. If there's not a flange at the top of the rail (hard to tell), there needs to be.
Otherwise, very cool idea, although the top speed needs to be about doubled for longer routes. 50 mph is way too slow.

Re:Darn (1)

The_Sock (17010) | more than 13 years ago | (#372714)

Same reason why us Canadians also never get anything like this... Look at the area you have to cover to put something like this in on a large scale (Where it actually becomes useful). Plus in Europe, a different company in each different country could put their own in, then work on connecting them. No one is risking a huge investment. (Relatively speaking)

In the USA or Canada, it would have to be either a bunch of competing companies working together (Yup.. I see that happening real soon) or one big company. That's a huge investment for one company, and they expect the returns immediately. So Europe will get things like this way before we do.

Think of other large scale things, like cell phone networks. Europe bends us over and makes us pay in almost anything that is going to cover a large area. It's easier to put into place there, and cheaper to upgrade / keep up.

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (1)

ScottBob (244972) | more than 13 years ago | (#372716)

Whole cities will be designed for this! And they will practically sell themselves! This will be the most important invention since toilet paper!

This is no different than an interstate (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 13 years ago | (#372717)

This is no different (in the respect you object to) than an interstate, and people use them all the time. Once you get on the on-ramp, there's no exit until, um, the next exit. In the side bar, the inventor says that the train will stop every three miles and disassemble itself.
-russ

Just thinking (2)

aengblom (123492) | more than 13 years ago | (#372718)

Pretty much what we have here is a solution to two maybe three problems:
  • Pollution and
  • The need for the driver to pay attention
  • Suspected increase in safety (while on rail system)
Solving such problems are great, but we must look at the problems caused. Here they are
  • Massive investment on car railways (Chicken and egg too)
  • How do you monitor energy usage for each vehicle. Do you get to travel for free?
  • Similarly, hell, California can't power light bulbs--powering millions of cars would be overwhelming
  • Few people really buy cars for particular functions...People don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a car that is soley for local travel and travel on certain railways
  • Introduction of "compatibility problems" into automobiles. Sorry sir, you can no longer ride on Microrail, you're car is version B this is verion C rail.
  • The rail must take you close to your DESTINATION too
  • Similarly, we'll have ugly suburbia rear its ugly head everywhere where it's possible to get to the rail system
  • People don't like to give up control of their vehicle.
  • The Washington Metro system had to have its trains opperated manually for a REALLY long time recently because ot tech problems etc. Would this happen with this new system?
  • Merging on rail sucks
  • Do you really buy that the cars would be cheap? They need guidance computers, big batteries etc.
  • I'm bored of typing...sorry i'm stopping
If you really wan to save the enviornment just drive a moped. Not only does it use little gas, but when you die in a horrific accident with a hummer, you stop using up our valuable rescources.

Re:only 50 mph..... (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 13 years ago | (#372719)

What's your average speed on a congested highway? Probably 30 mph.

Also, these cars will have a control system API, a standard width, and are presumably a way to carry power from the track to the cars. Other than that, they can be as individual as, well, individuals, right down to including a small engine to recharge the batteries.
-russ

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (2)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 13 years ago | (#372720)

It'll take America by storm!

If only we could somehow incorporate the Metric system!...

---------------------------------------------

Switching (1)

quasar0 (234453) | more than 13 years ago | (#372721)

how the hell are those things gonna switch. Looking at the pictures of those guideways i can;t possibally think of a way it will work. If im going at 100 km/h and i want to turn right, but the car coupled infront and behind me wants to go forward. Thats just not gonna work.

Have you heard of the Canyonero? (1)

paladinoflosthr (79707) | more than 13 years ago | (#372722)

I heard it seats 25.....
and it's endorsed by krusty the clown!

Seriously, though, I would much rather have tax dollars spent on improving/expanding public transportation than this sort of thing. I live in Michigan, which has almost non-existant public transportation, and if it was available, I wouldn't have to spend 40% of my income on a car.

Of course, since Michigan is the home of the "motor city", it wouldn't do to have public transportation....

JKF

How Much? (1)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#372723)

How Much would a typical commuter vehicle cost? Given the possibility of say charging the batteries on the rail system, this becomes more viable.

With a low enough cost, I could use this gadget for regular communiting, saving wear and tear on my regular wheels. That I would use for my special trips or whatever.

Mind you, right now I would NOT buy a metro or similar small car because of the danger it is in relative to larger tougher vehicles.

but something like that are a little larger that hooks into a rail system, well i could deal with that. I could see something that runs beside the current automotive system.

Re:A planning perspective (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 13 years ago | (#372724)

1) Capacity: eliminate parking lots at train stations. How much less dense is your corridor?

2) Cost: how much safer are these rail systems? How much denser are they? With an adequate control system and a way to merge into a moving traffic stream, you can have traffic moving at 100km/hr without stopping.

3) Hey, consumers buy cars.

Re:A misinformed concept (1)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#372725)

Railways are already availible, yet most people choose to travel in their automobiles. Why? Because they value their autonomy. Railways aren't universally available, but I do agree that people (especially in the U.S. it would seem) value their autonomy -- just look at all the mega-SUVs with a single passenger. The San Francisco Bay Area has BART, Muni trams in San Francisco, CalTrain along the peninsula, light rail in Santa Clara County, and ACE from eastern Alameda County. Why doesn't everyone take one of these?

people don't live near a stop

since they don't, they need to drive to the nearest stop (or take a bus, which is a whole different story), and parking is frequently filled up by the time they get there, so they drive anyway

few of the systems connect

of the systems that do connect, almost none of them are synchronized

many of the systems run irregularly, and very few of them run all night

The RUF system deals with all these things -- personal transport to the nearest junction, a system that runs all the time, and goes when you want to go. This system would get a huge number of people off freeways around here. Once you strap your vehicle to a rail, you lose control. If you feel like stopping, too bad, you're stuck until you get to the destination. No, you're stuck until you get to the next junction -- very much like on the freeway or autobahn, where you're stuck until you get to the next exit. You specify the destination before you start your trip, but there's nothing saying you can't override your choice enroute (say, if you get an email on your Internet connection saying your meeting has been moved/cancelled/rescheduled). Remember, this is a system for people in an urban area, not for people wanting to drive along the California coast. I want my own car when I take a driving trip (though you can bet the next car will be a hybrid, electric or other alternative fuel vehicle), but if I had to commute, I'd love a system like this. As it is, I'd use it any time I do have to drive around the SF Bay Area.

Re:A planning perspective (1)

robhranac (173773) | more than 13 years ago | (#372726)

Don't get me wrong, I think that this is good stuff and I agree with your assessment that this sort of system is safer and better than conventional systems. In fact, the MTDB in San Diego is at least vaguely considering a somewhat similar concept of letting transit riders rent little electric station-cars that they can then use to access transit.

I like this 'RUF' approach because it integrates the function of a station car (feeder) system, with a more conventional rail (mainline) system quite seamlessly. Maybe having transit systems purchase these cars and rent them out is the way to go.

I merely mean to point out that transportation problems (aside from energy source technology) are not fundamentally a technology problem, they are a social and engineering problem. These systems do not exist, not because control systems are so difficult - this tech has been around - but because generating the political will to invest in costly systems upfront is very difficult.

Maybe Im a dummy, but these seems like a bad idea. (1)

BeerSlurpy (185482) | more than 13 years ago | (#372727)

This whole idea seems poorly thought out, perhaps a subtle troll on the popular mechanics readers amongst us. The idea doesnt address the basic causes of traffic congestion, nor does it offer increased speed or fuel efficiency. It is a highway, but with rails on it to guide the cars. This actually has more drawbacks than benefits....

Call me crazy, but waiting to merge onto the railway so that I can get to work at the zippy speed of 62 mph just doesnt add up. Most likely, entering and exiting the car-rail system will create immense blockages on either end of the system as cars take time to merge on and off of it. This negates the speed benefit from smooth railway traffic (if this is even demonstrable).

The high traffic volume at the entrances and exits to this system will cause far more accidents than the rail system will prvent by obseleting the highways. This negates the safety benefits.

The supportive guiding rails will cause an increase in friction which will in turn cause decreased fuel economy. Perhaps this could be offset by the use of electricity, but I have doubts that real increases in efficiency will result.

The use of rails will cause an increase in maintenance complexity (rails more difficult to maintain than flat asphalt) which will make the system more expensive in the long run. This in addition to the increased cost of the building the sysytem in the first place.

Where will we put this system? There isnt much room for rails where I live. Considering that it is less than an ideal system, is there any place we would want to put it if we could?

Re:This ought to really catch on with Republicans (1)

mlinksva (1755) | more than 13 years ago | (#372729)

If it did catch on with Americans, who would the early adopters be? If Honda Insight buyers are any guide, it would be Republicans, who among Insight owners outnumber Democrats by two-to-one [cato.org]. Counterintuitive?

Re:Why Vehicles Like This Will Never Succeed (1)

frinkster (149158) | more than 13 years ago | (#372730)

Exactly. I love the fact that if I want to go into the city to catch a ballgame or something, I can just take the train. But I am never going to get rid of my car, which can go anywhere I want it to go and has an unlimited range (so long as there are gas stations every few hundred miles), and go with something that is less functional. And, believe it or not, I like to drive. I want a car that is fun to drive. Hell, I refuse to buy a car with an automatic transmission. You want me to buy this?

electric motors kick ass on piston engines (3)

small_dick (127697) | more than 13 years ago | (#372731)

droool, drooool.

2 moving parts in their basic form, est. 250K miles w/o ANY service, vastly superior tourqe curve, no pollution or toxic waste at the point of use, no more coolant or oil (or drips of same).

if some genius could just solve the energy density problems of current battery technology, we'd all be driving vastly superior vehicles.

Not exactly a new idea... (2)

satch89450 (186046) | more than 13 years ago | (#372732)

I remember reading an article in Popular Science magazine circa 1965 that described a "rail system" for cars that would allow you to drive to a rail station, accelerate on a upramp rail, switch into the main line rail with all the other cars that are travelling, switch off onto a deacceleration rail at your destination, and back on the road.

Sound familiar?

Now, that particular system used dual rails so that existing suspension systems and wheel assemblies would have lightweight solid wheels to ride the rails. (It's been so long since I saw the article I don't remember the rail gauge, but it was supposed to be wide enough to handle small trucks...but not semis.) There would be no need to redesign auto bodies other than have clearance for the two rails.

The article in PS was well-balanced, because it also listed the "unsolved problems" with such a system. What's interesting is that in my reading of this article, I didn't see mention of the problems, let alone the solutions. From memory:

  • What happens when you have a failure in one of the cars?
  • How does the system respond to damage to the infrastructure (broken rail, loss of rail power)?
  • Can existing cars be retrofitted to use the rail system?
  • How fiend-proof is the system? What are the weak points that would be targeted by terrorists?
  • How would the system be paid for?

This last is an excellent question. Do we use tax dollars, or is there a use fee when you roll onto the rail? In the 60's the instant answer was "taxes, taxes, taxes" but in today's environment the trend is toward pay-per-use of the enhanced system, or don't use the enhancement and roll on the side road for no extra fee. (See what NJ is doing with private toll roads, for example.)

Are there answers to these concerns? I think there are. Is the rail system practical? For some parts of the world where traffic congestion is linear, such as in LA, but not where the traffic congestion is more two-dimension such as in England or Japan.

Re:The real problem (1)

trentfoley (226635) | more than 13 years ago | (#372733)

This could be the real problem. You program the RUF for the long haul (at 50mph) stopping, or slowing down every few minutes for someone leave the train -- I'm not quite sure how that will work. All of a sudden, you realize that you just can't hold it any longer and you must piss. You are fumbling with the controls, trying to locate the closest public bathroom on the computer nav screen to no avail. You see billboards going by advertising beer and waterfalls. Your eyes fill with water and, well, you have a mess.

It's not that bad (2)

LittleStone (18310) | more than 13 years ago | (#372734)

It seems many /.ers are quite skeptical to this new design.

True, it may not be suitable to a big city.

True, it may be slow if too many traffics merge.

True, it may be expensive to build.

But, it's energy efficient. I don't know, and I don't care much about environmental issue... I just know that if gasoline prices are 4 times higher than today's price, I will definitely switch to electric car. Given the trouble of electric car can't go too far, this is a nice and practical idea.

Running cost is usually more important than the initial outlay. And, infrastructure should be build for the future, not for now coz' it takes year to build.

Project Metran (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 13 years ago | (#372735)

Yes, that was a student project at MIT in 1966, Project Metran. [mit.edu]

There have been a number of dual-mode proposals. The most practical one was a scheme for equipping buses with the ability to run on rails, so they could have their own trackway, narrower than a road lane, in freeway medians. This was proposed back when freeways had medians instead of barriers.

My idea for personal transportation is automated parking. You drive to your destination, select "auto park", and get out. The car contacts the net, finds and reserves a slot in a parking garage somewhere nearby, goes there, slowly (maybe 15MPH top speed, flashers blinking), and parks. When you want your car back, you call it on your cell phone, and it comes and picks you up.

The way to get this going would be to put it in rental cars, and have airports wired for the auto guidance system. Rental car return then consists of driving up to the terminal, getting out, and letting the car turn itself in. That alone would be a big seller. Over time, common business destinations like convention centers and hotels could be added to the system, so at those places you get automated parking. Once the infrastructure is in place for rental cars, private owners can use it too. That's how auto map displays were deployed; the first installations (by Etak, in the 1980s) were in rental cars, and the consumer version came later.

The advantage of this approach is that cars can be parked a mile or two from their destinations, instead of a block or two. This allows concentrating car parking into big multistory garages near downtown areas, instead of spreading it all over the place in little lots and on the street.

A key idea here is that top speed in auto mode is so slow that most problems can be dealt with by doing an emergency stop. You don't have to have a system smart enough to drive its way out of trouble. You're going to get failures that cause an emergency stop and a stalled vehicle now and then, but the infrastructure should detect this and dispatch a tow truck, while routing other vehicles around the problem.

Re:Just not possible. (1)

eightball (88525) | more than 13 years ago | (#372736)

Please support the claim that:

  1. ...this system makes it slower and more complicated

The computers wouldn't need 2 second (ha!) spaces behind the car in front of them, and the cars would be talking to each other.

Yeah my friend had an idea JUST like this (1)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | more than 13 years ago | (#372737)

Of course only the people with money get to make the ideas fly. His was: allow REAL cars to load in a cart that could hold 4, and use computers to load them intelligently into a lanch ramp that sets them on a rail system... I still think his idea is cooler since it doesn't make people buy new stupid looking cars.

small steps (1)

sonofepson (239138) | more than 13 years ago | (#372738)

There was bitching and complaining over small changes like a center mount rear brake light, what do you figure the reaction to a free-for-all personal monrail gizmo is going to be?

A series of small improvements has a better chance to catch on and get wide use. Like the new gas/electric hybrid cars that are being sold, they are similar to current cars but have a more efficient power plant.

Try to change too much at once and the concept will get rejected even if the it has merit.

Re:Just thinking (1)

eric17 (53263) | more than 13 years ago | (#372739)

I don't think this thing is going to fly either, but after the first point, your objections are mainly just strawmen.

This concept, if it works, takes away my only objection to public transport - it never goes where I want to go.

About the only way I could think that this system could get off the ground is to have the first ones over the worst congested highways of a city, and initially mainly rent and lease the suckers, so people can try them out.

It couldn't be any more expensive than light rail, and nobody uses that unless it drops them near their destination.

No kidding. (1)

Vermifax (3687) | more than 13 years ago | (#372740)

I already know enough people who don't put the proper amount of maintenance into their automobile already.

Vermifax

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 13 years ago | (#372741)

if we come up with a way for getting SUV's on rails

That's about right for SUV owner mentality.

Let's think about the SUV for a moment...

A proper SUV is supposed to have...

1. High Ground Clearance
2. Rugged Suspension
3. Lots of power for payload
4. Four wheel Drive

...all for the freedom to go anywhere, on or off road.

What has happened to the SUV?

They've become expensive, gas guzzler luxury vehicles that most poeple wash-n-primp, deck out with creature-comforts, and then loath the idea of ever getting it close to gravel where it might get a scratch, much less taking it into the mud or far off the beaten trail!

RAILS ARE PERFECT!

Nothing could further inhibit it's function more than tying the bloody monster down to a track!

America will LOVE this idea!

"Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"

decent car-by-rail service first (2)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 13 years ago | (#372742)

I think it makes more economic sense to provide some decent car-by-rail service: you drive your (regular) car onto a train in NYC and arrive a few hours later in Boston, with your own car and no driving hassles. You save money on car rentals at your destination, you save gasoline, and you save wear-and-tear on your car; all of that offsets the price of the train ticket.

system already widely deployed in the US (2)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 13 years ago | (#372743)

Actually, we already have this system. In fact, the personal vehicles are cheaper, healthier, and don't have any parking problems. You can see the personal vehicles here [dahon.com]. And here [caltrain.com] is more information about one of the many US rail systems that are compatible with those personal vehicles.

Re:A planning perspective (1)

nmarshall (33189) | more than 13 years ago | (#372744)

here in VA we have tax on our cars. know if they didnt tax this thing. im beting that a lot would get one!

nmarshall

The law is that which it boldly asserted and plausibly maintained..

Re:This ought to really catch on with Republicans (1)

grappler (14976) | more than 13 years ago | (#372745)

I don't know where they got that $18000 figure. I was looking for a car recently and I was thinking "low gas mileage". The insight was several thousand dollars out of what I could put up, being a poor college student. I _wanted_ that car :-( I went for the Civic though, which was still about 40mpg.

But then, I'm not really a hard core democrat. Actually I'd feel pretty good about republicans if they would just run the religious right out of their party on a rail.

--

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (2)

grappler (14976) | more than 13 years ago | (#372746)

Unfortunately while it makes sense, yuppies won't touch it. An SUV made for rails is an SUV that's not "made to go off the beaten trail". Therefore, it's not any great show of excess when you get one and proceed to keep it on city streets. If it's not a show of excess, what's the point?

--

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 13 years ago | (#372747)

An SUV made for rails is an SUV that's not "made to go off the beaten trail".

But that's just the point I'm trying to MAKE! MOST SUV's perform VERY POORLY off-road.

The ones that rank HIGHEST in all of the car and truck magazines rank high for reasons OTHER than offroad performance. The ones that handle off-road VERY well tend to rank very poorly, because they're tools, not luxury vehicles.

"Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"

Re:Never catch on..... (1)

maw (25860) | more than 13 years ago | (#372748)

3. The rails have no switching.. it follows electronic rails (why not do the entire system like this??)
4. rails can not be out in the open.. (electricity like subway tracks)

Using a pantograph, it's easy to switch rails. It can even be done, although less reliably, with a trolley pole. And both of those work fine outside.

I think that switching is possible with trains using a third rail anyways. It's certainly easy enough to visualise, in several ways, even.
--

Re:Conserving attention (2)

dhalgren (34798) | more than 13 years ago | (#372749)

Actually, I wish I had mod points--having done
a lot of commuting since jr. high, some on
trains and some driving, I'd pick the train
anyday. Can't use my notebook and drive at the
same time...or read a magazine, or...or...

This sort of thing is so Trek that I can't help
but love it. 'course, I'm one o' those
Canadian commies. ;)

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (1)

grappler (14976) | more than 13 years ago | (#372750)

yeah, I don't dispute any of that. I'm just saying that the psychology of the SUV buyer is not going to let them buy something that is so obviously not a "rugged mountain vehicle". Not that there is anything rational about it.

But practically every SUV commercial shows the car in the mountains. It's the image, even if the image is a joke.

--

Re:This ought to really catch on with Republicans (2)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#372751)

Lets see now..
The cato institute has an article by an avoved enemy of the environmentalists and democrats.
In this article there is the phrase "One survey shows they outnumber Democrats two-to-one.". No further attempt is made to identify the survey.

You then are convinced beyond any doubt that this fact is true despite coming from a biased author who works for a biased "think tank" AKA fund raising arm of the republican party. And despite the fact that the survey is not even mentioned by name.

Are all republicans as gullable as you?

Re:This is no different than an interstate (2)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#372752)

This is no different (in the respect you object to) than an interstate, and people use them all the time.

It's a hell of a lot different than an Interstate in a number of important ways that will doom it to instant failure.

The most important being:

1) The Interstate already goes everywhere, and already has convenient access.

2) I can merge onto the Interstate at 70 MPH.

3) My existing car works on the Interstate.

4) I can exit the Interstate without every other car for three miles in either direction having to stop.

-

Re:Just thinking (1)

Micah (278) | more than 13 years ago | (#372753)

The Washington Metro system is what, 25 years old? One would think that a new system wouldn't have those kinds of problems...

(is it running automatically again? I was there last October and it was running manually then. Hadn't heard if they fixed it.)

It's not the fall that kills you... (4)

Dean Edmonds (189342) | more than 13 years ago | (#372754)

...it's the landing at the end.

All of these "automated road" concepts share a similar difficulty: handing control back to the driver at the end of the automated portion of the journey.

You can beep and flash lights all you want, but if the driver is asleep, passed out from drink, or engaged in coitus, there's a good chance that you'll have to bring the vehicle to a full stop and wait a few moments for zir to resume control.

In fact, I would expect that safety concerns would very quickly result in a requirement that each vehicle must be brought to a complete stop before handing control back to the driver.

That in turn means that each off-ramp will need a landing zone capable of stacking up a few cars while their drivers get their acts together.

This would, perhaps, not be dissimilar to what happens with some downtown off-ramps today, which have traffic lights at the bottom, resulting in cars sitting idle on the ramp, waiting for the light to change. The difference is that every RUF off-ramp would have that sort of built-in delay.

Another problem, specific to RUF, is that there is no equivalent to the passing lane. So whenever there is a blockage -- for example, when an accident occurs or an off-ramp backs up -- it will block the entire flow of traffic, which could very quickly bring the whole system to a standstill.

These may not be insurmountable problems, but they would have to be addressed before implementing a system such as this.

-deane
Gooroos Software: plugging you in to Maya

Choose you own adventure books (1)

thistledown's name (254509) | more than 13 years ago | (#372755)

you mention these in your post. I collect them and am trying to get a (cheep) full set. I have about 80% so far. Anybody interested in trading or selling (i have quite a few dublicates) reply to this and I'll send you a list of what I have.

Now, on the subject of the cars. I think it;s a good idea but it will not work. Not because drivers will be unable to change routes, but because of (a)speed of travel. If the train is stoping every 5-30km, even if it has a top speed of 60km/h, it will still barely reach that on the longest runs before it has to slow down again. (b)the cars are small, and americans like big cars. (c)would you want to be not just staring at the next cars bumper on the way to work for and hour, but actually attached to it!?

I think public transportation is great (every couple of weeks I take about a 5 hour train ride accros state from collage and I take the bus or my bike to most places around town), and concepts like this should be researched more. I just don't think this one will work that well in practice.

It's a sure thing! (4)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 13 years ago | (#372756)

Oo, a mass-transit proposal which requires 1) huge investments in infrastructure and 2) every user to buy a special car, seeking investors, and with no committed government support.

Where do I place my pre-order?
---

Re:Switching (5)

cyberdonny (46462) | more than 13 years ago | (#372757)

Monorail.org [monorails.org] has a nice page on how monorails switch [monorails.org].

The short summary. Yes, it is possible using various techniques (flexible/segmented sections of monorail beam, beam replacement, etc.).

The page also explains that the "monorails can't switch" myth was due to a particularly bad and bulky implementation at Wuppertal, and that the myth has since been perpetuated by various shady sources such as Microsoft Encarta.

What OS will they use? (1)

dybdahl (80720) | more than 13 years ago | (#372758)

If Microsoft gets involved in such a project, they will have to build at least two rails in each direction.

Theory of Excess (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 13 years ago | (#372759)

That double post was a fuck up, but it fits the theme here.
Yeah, excess is exactly the right place to be looking. I'm talking to you about a man named George Bataille who wrote a lot about the internet and monorails and whatnot in the thirties.
The above poster had it right. This monorail plan doesn't offer excess value, so it's never going to work and particularly not in the States. But let me clarify how that works.
When it comes to excess, it's hard to beat sex. Sex is expendature in so many ways. Sex, is the best motivator of all. Even drugs like Coke can only mimic the ecstacy of sex. And a product that's going to be successfull has got to be sexy. That's the unspoken value. The part you didn't actually get a receipt for, but the only part you really wanted.
And if it can't sell as a product because it isn't sexy, it's not going anywhere in the US. That's what keeps America beautiful --some would say brutal. And this thing isn't sexy at sixty miles an hour. That's like when your wife says she wants you to pay for her breast reduction. It's gonna be hard to find that money.
Now, on the other hand. Let's see something like Honda and Toyota and GM are already working on with these hybrids. The existing car companies accept that a car has to have some balls even if they're marketing them to hello kitty lovin' downtown commuters.
There's no reason the two might not go together though. This particular guy's cars may not be the answer, but the cheap guide rail idea is way overdo in some form or another.

This is my idea of a RUF. (1)

Bad Juju (16689) | more than 13 years ago | (#372760)

http://www.roadandtrack.com/RoadandTrack/Article/d ec2000/1200_rufrgt3400s_pg1.html I've got your rapid transit, right here, buddy. We'd have no traffic problems if everyone had one of these, and a clue.

Re:This ought to really catch on with Republicans (1)

peccary (161168) | more than 13 years ago | (#372761)

I thought the Cato Institute were libertarians, not Republicans. There *is* a difference. Libertarians are much more pro-geek than Republicans.

Re:Just thinking (1)

peccary (161168) | more than 13 years ago | (#372762)

Mopeds don't really run clean, though. Maybe an electric moped would be better. My vote is for "if you really want to save the environment, walk, or ride a bike. Voluntarily limit yourself to 6000 automotive miles / year, and live within that limit."

Re:A planning perspective (1)

Logi (2799) | more than 13 years ago | (#372763)

I just spent about an hour reding through material on their web site and they anwer these points quite well.

(1) Capacity - These personal rail car concepts tend to fail when it comes to extremely dense corridors. As you can imagine, heavy rail can push many more people through a single rail corridor than this sort of technology. Right now you can push about 2K cars/lane/hour, compared to densities of nearly 10K for heavy rail systems. With this technology, you could decrease headways and maybe squeeze another few K through, but:

They claim to get about 20K people per hour over one rail, vs about 2K for a single lane of traffice. This means that you would need about 10 lanes to get the same throughput using the highway system.

(2) Cost - these rail systems still cost on the order of $5M US/km to build, while each highway lane only costs about $200K to build. So, you are still getting less for your tax money with this stuff. Not that I am totally against this, though. Essen (Germany) has a clever system that does this, except the cars are busses that turn into light rail. I can see these applied intelligently for mid-range suburban corridors where other forms of transit are not applicable, but this brings us to the final issue:

Comparing the USD 5M/Km to the USD 0.2M/Km a high-way lane is not quite fair since these systems will carry 10 times the traffic. Of course, the roads are still cheaper than the rail initially, but this system has so many things going for it in terms of the environment it creates in the city and the reduction in pollution, that it might very well be worth it. In fact, almost anything that reduces the reliance on roads is a good thing. And if you can switch from petrolium to electricity in the process, so much the better.

Also, this system would not need to be very dense. That's the beauty of the dual-mode system. You put these rails where there is the heaviest traffic and then use the road systems for the less heavily trafficed routes. So the extra expenditure would only be where there is real need for it.

(3) Consumer Adoption - when you are trying to get customers to change modes and you are asking them to make large capital outlays to do so, you are asking for trouble. This is the main issue with automated highways (like those prototyped at Berkeley). You can build the public infrastructure, but without private investment on a large scale, it does not fly.

The full benefit of this system does not appear without large private expenditure. But! the same rails would be used both for private cars and for the bus-equivalents. Initially it would function essentially as a usual monorail system, except that the "buses" would roll off the end of the rail to reach just a little bit further. Eventually, more of the bus system would be moved onto the rail. This on its own might be enough to make the system worthwhile. Then, once the infrastructure is appearing, people would have some incentive to make their next car RUV-compatible.

So, the adoption should be a lot less painful than what you are implying here. Still, of course, you never know.

A huge benefit of this system over most public transport, is that people can still have their own "car". You still have complete freedom to move about as you wish and can do it in an environment where you feel at home. This is why commuters might adopt this system when they would never consider taking a train to work.

Re:This is no different than an interstate (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 13 years ago | (#372764)

This is no different in the respect you object to. In other respects it is different. Is this so hard to understand?
-russ

"engaged in coitus", eh? (1)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | more than 13 years ago | (#372765)

Instead of building an elaborate "landing zone" let's implement a much simpler and more effective system (for RUF *and* for regular off-ramps). When you hit the end of the ramp, a pleasant contralto voice starts counting down from ten. If it gets to zero before the car accelerates beyond the end of the ramp, a magnetic junk-yard-style arm comes out, picks the car up and dumps it in a heap off to the side. The piteous cries of people formerly "engaged in coitus" will be a deterrent to further slowpokes. We save money AND clean up the gene pool. A double bonus!
--

Re:Just not possible. (1)

Slicker (102588) | more than 13 years ago | (#372766)


If you were a technical person, you'd realize that there are an infinite number of ways that an ORDERLY merge can be made more efficient than the messy ones you see on highways today.

Putting cars on separate rails ENSURE ORDER for the merges.. You're not using your brain.

--Matthew

Re:This ought to really catch on with Americans (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#372767)

Unfortunately while it makes sense, yuppies won't touch it. An SUV made for rails is an SUV that's not "made to go off the beaten trail". Therefore, it's not any great show of excess when you get one and proceed to keep it on city streets. If it's not a show of excess, what's the point?

Well, they could very well be enticed with roller-coaster like t^hrails in the mountains... They could then buy their SUV by the G-rating they have rather than engine power or whatnot...


--

Problems and alternatives (2)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 13 years ago | (#372768)

It seems to me this shares the same problems as simple light rail systems such as are already deployed in Washington DC, New York, Boston, London, etc.

Consider: You have to drive to a centralized station to enter the system, and you depart from a similar centralized station. Now, there are one of two possible scenarios:
  1. The places people want to go are near to the station. Then why don't you just WALK where you are going, and avoid having to find a parking place.
  2. The places people want to go are NOT withing walking distance. Now, imagine the traffic near one of these terminus points. You've not SOLVED the problem, you've MOVED and CONCENTRATED it.


Consider a city like LA: spread out all over the place, no centralized industrial area. Yes, you could use a system like this to reduce traffic on the I5, but you still have miles to go from the station to where you are going. You will have a traffic jam at the terminus, you will still have parking problems. The only advantage is that the cars can be electricly powered since their independant range is reduced. OK, save one little problem - LA HASN"T ANY JUICE TO POWER THE CARS!

What many people overlook is that many American cities are very spread out, having no centralized industrial area and no centralized residential area. Many of the standard masstrans solutions that work in Europe don't work in the US for that reason.

Now, an idea the Europeans have that I wish would catch on here in the US is the RO-RO train: Roll On, Roll Off (say it in a Pat Morita voice...) You drive your car on the train, then you go into the train and cover some serious miles. Then, you reclaim your car, and on you go. It's a five hour drive from where I sit to Dallas - If I could hop onto a train, roll the five hours in a mode where I could sleep/eat/surf/work/whatever, and arrive in Dallas ready to go, I'd be all over it. Let alone how nice it would be when going to the coasts (20 hr), the Black Hills (14 hr), or the southwest (14 hr).

However, the problem is that train service in the US is being slowly castrated with a dull knife. Certain organizations want all freight to run by truck, and without freight to subsidise passenger service, passenger rail is dying a slow an painful death in the US.

Re:This is no different than an interstate (2)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#372769)

I'm sorry, did you mistake my comments for an attempt at a rebuttal?

Perhaps you should have read the post more closely.

-

Railways controlling transportation (2)

prototype (242023) | more than 13 years ago | (#372770)

I work for a large railway in Canada (CP) and we already have this. They're special attachments you add to a regular truck to ride the rails. From inside the cab you can retract the wheels and ride off the track onto a normal road.

The problem inherent with a transportation system like this is the huge overhead to lay out the track system. They talk about being able to drive from a home to a RUF station, so that means that there's some way for the car to get onto the track? How is this supposed to be accomplished? I can see two ways. 1) Lay track to every persons house (which let's be realistic, this is pretty much impossible). 2) The RUF vehicle is pretty much like what we have in the railway now. A set of retractable wheels that are added to a car to rail-enable it. Realistically, this isn't something the average person is going to want. We already have roads. Why would you want to ride on RUF. And RUF is what it'll be. Ever drive over a RR crossing at 60mph. It's not a smooth ride.

The second flaw in this system is the fact that someone has to be responsible for traffic control. In traditional road safety, you can ALWAYS pull off the road if trouble is ahead (not easy in winter, but at least you have some options). On a track system, you're at the mercy of the operators or other drivers. There is no way to simply turn off to avoid an accident. Not only that but you're also at the mercy of following someone. There is no way to pass easily, unless they lay double rail and have crossovers at various junctions. I write software for train control systems and know how difficult it is just to keep trains separated. This is a common problem in railroads today. Knowing where everything is and keeping things safe by positive train separation. Now multiply that by 10,000 or more in an average city. Sheesh, I wouldn't want to be the person to write that system or use it for that matter.

The third flaw is the huge cost associated with providing these rails. They're going to have to be all new elevated rails (or whatever they're proposing) however right now it costs us $1 million a mile to lay signaled track. I can't see it being much cheaper for this system so who's going to pay for a $1 billion dollar road system when they already have one that needs to be maintained at a fairly large cost as well.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

liB

Re:Switching (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#372771)


Monorail.org has a nice page on how monorails switch [monorails.org].

The short summary. Yes, it is possible using various techniques (flexible/segmented sections of monorail beam, beam replacement, etc.).

The page also explains that the "monorails can't switch" myth was due to a particularly bad and bulky implementation at Wuppertal, and that the myth has since been perpetuated by various shady sources such as Microsoft Encarta.

Monorail switches are *STILL* more complex than "normal" bi-rail switches. Their moving parts are such an important proportion of the total infrastructure that their mechanism will always be more onerous, complex, slow-moving and cumbersome than bi-rail switches.

This has profound impacts on many aspects, who all eventually touch safety:

  • It takes longer to turn a switch.
    A mainline bi-rail switch can be turned and secured in less than 30 seconds.
  • Monorail switches are quite bulky and complex, has they often have to move the whole [monorails.org] track about [monorails.org] (isn't that funny that those two pictures are taken from the "switch myth [slashdot.org]" page of the monorail.org [monorails.org] website???)
    Birail switches mechanisms [w1.com] are wholly contained within the track cross section, and their actuating mechanism [switch.com] be very unobtrusive [railway-technology.com].
  • Since monorail switches have to move the whole track about, the length of the switches is necessarly restricted to practicability, and this has a direct bearing on the speed they can be negociated in reverse position (the shorter they are, the slower you have to go through).
    The French Train à Grande Vitesse switches can be taken as fast as 150 miles per hour in reverse position.
  • Derailments on monorail will very often send the whole train flying through the air, crashing below.
    Birail derailments can be as benign as a wheel on the ground that can be re-railed within minutes by the train crew using a re-railer frog (the yellow Y-shaped tool near the rear of the engine [sd40.com] - sorry, that's the best I could find in 10 minutes on Google). And birail viaduct tracks are required to have [state.ny.us] guard rails inside the track [cxtinc.com] anyway to prevent derailed cars to leave the track.
  • Signalling systems must take account of this by having a longer safety margin where a train can be brought to a safe stop in case a switch doesn't turn properly.
  • This means a greater distance between trains and thus a lower capacity for each track.
  • By being more complex, switches are more expensive. In turn, there will be less switches on the network, making it less efficient and more difficult to go around a problem (like a disabled train).
  • The single-beam track may seem sleek and more efficient than a heavy viaduct, but you *NEED* to have a way of quickly evacuating a train in case of emergency. So you will need a catwalk that is parallel to the tracks, the structure of which will destroy much of the sleekness of the beam track.

Re:electric motors kick ass on piston engines (1)

hacksoncode (239847) | more than 13 years ago | (#372772)

Why do people say stuff like this?

Allow me to translate: "if some genius could just invent pixie dust that would solve the energy density problems of current battery technology, we'd all be driving magically powered vehicles!!!"

Oh right, I forgot to add: "and, BONUS!, we could move all our pollution into someone *else's* backyard where it belongs (because, of course, we can't possibly have those nasty dangerous nuclear power plants)." Sigh...

I see at least two problems. (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 13 years ago | (#372773)

1. It's no faster than a regular car, 80km average speed isn't that much. I'll grant the fact that you avoid traffic by riding on railways, but it's still very marginal and the time spent just travelling to the railway would probably defeat the purpose. This is just a different form of public bus transportation, in smaller units. It still shares most of the same fallacies as regular bus transit, with the exception that you don't have to ride 45 minutes with that smelly freak who likes to stare at your ears.

2. This is just another thing that will be purchased and vaporized by the big auto manufacturers, just like the water-powered car that you saw only on the discovery channel. GM, Chevy, and Ford will pull a 'Microsoft' move on this one, i'm pretty sure.

I just don't think this thing is innovative and effective enough to make a strong entry into the market. This stupid shit works in Asia, where cars are much less of a commodity than here in America, but for us car lovers it just won't get too far.

Re:Just not possible. (1)

hexx (108181) | more than 13 years ago | (#372774)

I think you might have missed two key points on the web site [www.fur.dk].

1. If you look at their "General Assumptions" for Los Angeles, they set the distances between stations to an average of 3 miles. The LA Freeways at the moment have on ramps about every 1/4 mile at the most. So you're decreasing the number of access points by a factor of 12.

Also people converge on these access points without the aid of a computer. Granted, once they are at an access point, the computer would be a significant aid in easing congestion, but it takes time to get there.

I see it somewhat like the lines at a crowded supermarket. Once you are being checked out, it's an automated and thus rather speedy process.

While everyone is converging on that spot it's a mess.

2. Speed during switching is 20 mph. This is slower than the 35mph merge lanes on modern highways. That's all there is to it. The line to get into the merge lanes on modern highways are slow, but those lines are analogous to the lines that access the "merge points" of this system (before the computers take over).

Hope this explains it a little better. -Matt

Re:A planning perspective (2)

garcia (6573) | more than 13 years ago | (#372775)

<i>(2) Cost - these rail systems still cost on the order of $5M US/km to build, while each highway lane only costs about $200K to build. So, you are still getting less for your tax money with this stuff.</I>

question is though. what is the long term costs of these things. Is rail harder to keep up than pavement?

Re:It's a sure thing! (1)

shibboleth (228942) | more than 13 years ago | (#372777)

You're correct about 1) but re: 2), slide 10/10 at the company website mentions that a special car palette would make it possible for regular cars to ride the rail. That sounds pretty good to me--no more wear and tear on my car for the long trips upstate. One can also better attend to their boredom driving hands free.

Re:This is no different than an interstate (1)

/Wegge (2960) | more than 13 years ago | (#372778)

It's a hell of a lot different than an Interstate in a number of important ways that will doom it to instant failure.

The most important being:

1) The Interstate already goes everywhere, and already has convenient access.

Except that the interstate highways have to be built before they go anywhere. But the real kicker is the increased transport density in already-congested spots. At a typical highway into a large city will not give you a speed of 70 MPH, sometimes not even half that.

2) I can merge onto the Interstate at 70 MPH.

Did you check out the information on the website [www.ruf.dk] that explains the concept? Each "station" is a place where individual vehicles can merge on and off the track without stopping.

3) My existing car works on the Interstate.

Sure - that's probably the biggest obstacle. But if the infrastructure already was in place, would you then consider bying a RUF as a second car?

4) I can exit the Interstate without every other car for three miles in either direction having to stop.

Exiting is pretty much the reverse of merging onto the track, as described above, so that's probably not an issue, unless of course the driver falls asleep during transit.

Popular Mechanics (1)

BSDevil (301159) | more than 13 years ago | (#372779)

These guys have been around for a while. There was a Popular Mechanics article on this system about five years ago - not exactly new. Just now, they've got enough cash to build a prototype. However, no one/article has addressed the merging problem - how do you go from ground road to raised/ground rail fast and easily?

Re:A planning perspective (2)

Ian Bicking (980) | more than 13 years ago | (#372780)

Capacity - These personal rail car concepts tend to fail when it comes to extremely dense corridors. As you can imagine, heavy rail can push many more people through a single rail corridor than this sort of technology. Right now you can push about 2K cars/lane/hour, compared to densities of nearly 10K for heavy rail systems. With this technology, you could decrease headways and maybe squeeze another few K through
I think the heavy corridors are more a symptom of the what's wrong with current transportation infrastructures, not a good representation of how people move about the city.

Right now people drive ten minutes to get to the highway, ten minutes to get off of it. And there's these giant corridors that get bigger and bigger, the merging gets more complicated, the roads up the the highways get bigger.

I think a more decentralized system is much more efficient. If population grows and spreads out, it's not so much of a problem if the transportation system similarly spreads. There would be a hundred ways to get from one place to another, and the system wouldn't have the scalability problems that highways have -- extra lanes aren't worth much.

Now, there's a problem with this -- this is how most transportations systems work inside cities. And it's slow. Because there's another scaling problem -- all those smaller roads intersect with each other, and you spend all your time waiting for lights. This is where an automated system could be so much more efficient than roads. Every intersection is simply a merge.

Heavy rail isn't so great either. If the stops aren't close to each other, few people will be able to walk to a rail stop. So you still have all the road problems, you've just replaced the heaviest corridor with a rail. If the stops are close to each other, the rail is very slow.

Right now there's a project in Chicago to replace some 9 miles of elevated rail for $350 million. That's insane. It's stupid. Part of it is because they can't actually shut anything down because there's no redundancy in the system. And the train will still be slow when they are finished.

RUF seems rather awkward, and I'm not sure what it would provide. But the basic idea of automated individual vehicles seems quite practical to me (PRT being a much more practical implementation).

Re:Looks like a system ready for abuse (2)

Spyky (58290) | more than 13 years ago | (#372781)

Access to rails (unlike public roads) could require more comprehensive and regular inspections, all built into the cost of rail access. Modern methods of identification could id each car that entered the rail system and ensure that it is up to standards. I'm quite sure that before any system like this is implemented issues like this will be well discussed and planned for. A "system ready for abuse". I don't know of anyone who intentionally disables their brake pads so they can go around causing mayhem and abuse. Or perhaps thats not quite how you meant it. Spyky

Re:This ought to really catch on with Republicans (2)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#372782)

The cato institute is a money laundering operation for the republican party. People get around campaign finance laws by contributing to these so called think tanks and then the think tanks funels the money to the political party or takes out independent ads. The donors stay private because the think tank is not required to publish the names of the donors.
I am not trying to single out the cato institute here all thinks tanks are formed for this purpose. The cato institute on the other hand is one of the biggest and most well funded which is no surprise considering the amount of millionaires and bilionaires who are also republicans.

Re:Make For simpler driving (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 13 years ago | (#372783)

My only concern with this is the speed.....I mean, why would I want to jump into something with a top speed of 62mph when I can legally do 70 without breaking a sweat.....I do think that if the main advantage of this system is increased safety due to its train-like nature, then we should also be seeing train-like speeds to encourage people to get into their RUFs and out of their cars.....150mph between cities would convince me and most other long-distance drivers of their worth.

Re:Just not possible. (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 13 years ago | (#372784)

Hmm....just thinking, why not have a 'merge rail' sitting next to a 'high speed rail' so people get onto the merge rail at the slow 35mph....get upto speed before the next merge point (3 miles), and then merge into the high-speed rail running alongside at a more reasonable 70-80mph, so that the fast traffic doesn't need to slow down so much.

The system could be introduced into the outermost 2 lanes of any large 6+ lane highway so that people can still use their normal cars, and when the scheme really takes off, the remaining normal car lanes and be reclaimed and turned into something nice (awww...how pretty ma - real trees!)

-Nano.

Re:electric motors kick ass on piston engines (1)

Blancmange (195140) | more than 13 years ago | (#372785)

small_dick:
if some genius could just solve the energy density problems of current battery technology, we'd all be driving vastly superior vehicles.

I think the Proton Polymer battery is just what you need.

Re:Looks like a system ready for abuse (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#372786)

Yes, I still have faith in the human race :). I'm just stating that damage to the rails is quite possible and the design should reflect that steps were taken to prevent that. I'm not convinced it has.

Re:This is no different than an interstate (2)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#372787)

Except that the interstate highways have to be built before they go anywhere. But the real kicker is the increased transport density in already-congested spots. At a typical highway into a large city will not give you a speed of 70 MPH, sometimes not even half that.

Now, how long do you think I'll have to wait for the Interstate highway system to be built? Oh, wait; IT'S ALREADY THERE. I'm a quarter of a mile from an Interstate. I'm several miles from the train tracks, and I can't take the Interstate the whole way there, so if you divert all that Interstate traffic to the train station, I'm going to be stuck in gridlock on residential streets for several hours getting there.

Did you check out the information on the website that explains the concept? Each "station" is a place where individual vehicles can merge on and off the track without stopping.

Yes; at just over 18 MPH. I can ride a bicycle faster than that.

Sure - that's probably the biggest obstacle. But if the infrastructure already was in place, would you then consider bying a RUF as a second car?

Yes, and if my grandmother had wheels, I'd consider using her as a wagon. Wake me in 20 years if they manage to get it in place by then, which is doubtful. More like 40, if you consider all the new roads they'll have to make to get there. Through people's houses and businesses, BTW.

Exiting is pretty much the reverse of merging onto the track, as described above, so that's probably not an issue, unless of course the driver falls asleep during transit.

Which is a serious possibility, since it slows down to 18 MPH at *EVERY JUNCTION*. Everybody in the chain does, whether they're exiting or not.

God help you if there's an emergency and you need to pull over. Oops, gotta wait for the next junction, then slow down to 18 MPH to exit. Too late, baby has choked on his own vomit and died.

Any mass transit system that is intended to replace the Interstate highway system is going to have to use that highway system. Otherwise, you'll be using up twice as much land to accomodate the extremely long period of time in which both systems must operate in parallel.

So if you want this to work, it's gotta be on roads, not rails, or you gotta spend trillions of dollars in a very short period of time.

-

Re:This is no different than an interstate (1)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#372788)

God help you if there's an emergency and you need to pull over. Oops, gotta wait for the next junction, then slow down to 18 MPH to exit. Too late, baby has choked on his own vomit and died. If there's an emergency, you can deal with it without slowing down -- you're not driving the RUF while it's on the rail. It would be a whole lot easier to deal with a choking baby (or a driver that has a heart attack, as happened near here recently) in a RUF than in a car doing 70MPH in the fast lane of a crowded freeway. Any mass transit system that is intended to replace the Interstate highway system is going to have to use that highway system.

This system isn't just for the U.S. -- it's starting in Denmark where the inventor lives

The interstate system hasn't always existed, either. It took quite a while to build (after Eisenhower saw the German Autobahn during WWII, no?), not to mention money, land usage issues, etc.

Perhaps most significantly, this isn't intended to replace the entire interstate system. It's meant for sprawling urban areas, where interstates have already proven they're not up to the task at hand.

Re:This is no different than an interstate (2)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 13 years ago | (#372789)

If there's an emergency, you can deal with it without slowing down -- you're not driving the RUF while it's on the rail. It would be a whole lot easier to deal with a choking baby (or a driver that has a heart attack, as happened near here recently) in a RUF than in a car doing 70MPH in the fast lane of a crowded freeway.

Ok, now I'm in the back seat taking care of baby, and suddenly, we reach my interchange and I'm dumped into the road back on manual drive. But I'm in the back seat...

I *HAVE* dealt with this emergency on an Interstate in the fast lane at 70 MPH. I slowed and pulled into the breakdown lane, got out, and saved my son's life. No problem.

This system isn't just for the U.S. -- it's starting in Denmark where the inventor lives

And I'm saying that in 20 years, it still won't be in the US in any meaningful way. If Denmark likes it, more power to 'em.

* The interstate system hasn't always existed, either. It took quite a while to build

Yes, but it's ALREADY HERE. The money has been spent. We don't need to spend it again on this Danish whim.

* Perhaps most significantly, this isn't intended to replace the entire interstate system. It's meant for sprawling urban areas, where interstates have already proven they're not up to the task at hand.

All those objections I made based on the situation where I live were in that context; I live in a sprawling urban area, Orlando, about 1/3 the population of Denmark.

What works in Denmark doesn't necessarily apply to the US. We have states larger than Denmark, and we have "sprawling urban areas" with higher population than their entire country.

And we have a robust Interstate highway system going to all of it.

If I were going to Tampa or Jacksonville, I'd be interested in this (if they made the damn cars big enough to transport my stuff), but not so much so that I'd be willing to pay the massive tax increases necessary to build this parallel system, and not so much so that I'd be willing to be a party to the massive invasion of other people's property rights to build it.


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