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A transport system of hover cars should be up and running on the site of Israel Aerospace Industries. The company building the system, SkyTran, will start with a 400-500m loop of elevated magnetic levitation tracks holding 2-seater vehicles, and hopes to follow this pilot with commercial versions, the first of which would be implemented in congestion-plagued Tel Aviv.
Like Google’s autonomous buggies currently being tested in California, and LA’s automated interactive traffic lights system which is still being perfected after decades of use, this is yet another development directed at addressing some of the worsening problems in modern traffic.
Also like Google cars, these are lightweight two-person vehicles, but unlike the driverless cars these will not be sharing the existing roads with traditional cars. Instead, they will be making use of currently unexploited parts of theurban landscape, suspended from magnetic levitation tracks some 20 to 30 feet above the ground, a bit like The Jetsons’ transport solutions we have been anticipating for so long. The lightness of the ’people pods’ (104kg/m) was one reason they had to be elevated, as the weight differential between them and traditional cars posed a safety risk in case of collision.
If the technology of suspended cars proves efficient, it could alleviate congestion considerably and greatly increase fuel efficiency.
Much like Google’s driverless car, the hover cars are meant to discourage ownership and are instead developed as part of a transport system shared across passengers. To use the hover commuter line, you would need to hail a hover car via a smartphone app to a station of your choice, and it would then take you directly to your destination along ’guideways’.
The cars’ speed during development and testing will be about 43mph (70km/h), increasing if and when it receives a commercial version to 240km/h.
The idea was conceived by aerospace engineer Douglas Malewicki in the 1990s. SkyTran is currently based at the NASA research park in California, and has plans for various projects in the USA, India and globally, many of which will depend on the success of the Israel pilot. The Californian headquarters of the company will assemble the initial components for the system, and the rest will be done on site in Tel Aviv.
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