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Go go gadget straddling bus! Chinese super-buses glide over traffic

By

August 3, 2010

The Straddling Bus

The Straddling Bus

China is home to more people than any other country on Earth, and they're moving into megacities at a rate that's simply unprecedented. In fact, just about everything about today's China is unprecedented – this is a country facing some absolutely staggering challenges in the next 30 years. It's a peek into the future for Western nations – a glimpse at what is becoming the world's first megacolony. Managing a transport plan for such a colossal number of people – many of whom now own, or aspire to own, cars – presents a traffic congestion and pollution quandary the likes of which we've simply never seen before. Take a look at Mike Hanlon's jaw-dropping Yez video to get a snapshot of the problems China faces and see how its government and industries are scrambling to become the global leaders in local emissions-free vehicles. And take a look at this amazing public transport solution – it's a bus network that drives over the top of the cars on a slightly modified road, able to stop without interrupting the traffic flow and to glide over the top of congestion. This go-go-gadget bus is far quicker and 90 percent cheaper to build than a new subway route, it's solar/grid electric powered and it's no pipe dream – construction starts at the end of this year.

Say what you will about China, but this is a country that knows how to get things done. It has no choice – its hand is being forced by its massive and rapidly urbanizing population. Luckily, after the GFC, it's also supremely cashed-up. It's boom time, and the whole country is aware that if mass solutions for housing, transit, energy and a whole host of other issues aren't deployed NOW, the country is going to suffer in a big way.

So here's a fascinatiing public transport idea that we've never seen mooted before – giant super-buses that roll on stilts on small tracks between lanes of traffic. So they roll over the top of stopped traffic, and when they stop to let passengers on and off, they don't interrupt the flow of traffic below.

Far quicker and cheaper to build than a subway or monorail system, the Straddling Bus system simply requires modification to existing roads, and the creation of a network of elevated bus stops. The road mods can either comprise inlaid rails – at a 30 percent energy saving due to lack of rolling resistance – or simply a painted colored line, which the buses can be programmed to follow autonomously as they roll on regular tires. Clearly the latter would be exceptionally cheap to deploy, requiring almost no disruption to the road.

Where there's no room to build an elevated stop, passengers can get in and out using a built-in ladder.

The fully electric buses charge themselves in a new and unique way – which is called relay charging. All along each route, there are charging stations positioned in such a way that there is always a charging post in contact with the bus. The roof of the bus is itself an electrical conductor, so as it brushes against one of these charging posts, it's juiced up as it runs. As its main load is starting and stopping at each station, the bus runs on high-power, fast-discharge supercapacitors. The remaining energy after a start can sustain the bus through to the next stop.

It won't have to worry about traffic lights, as the approach of a straddling bus will be prioritized in the traffic light sequence such that it will always have green lights to move through.

Since the buses will need to be able to turn off one road and onto another, it's important to warn any cars trapped beneath the bus that something's about to happen – and to warn the bus driver or automated pilot system that there's still cars beneath. A laser/radar system is being employed to warn drivers about a bus's intentions, and there's even talk of integrating the bus with the traffic lights in such a way that when the cars wish to turn the same way as the bus is turning, they'll get a green turn light, but the traffic moving straight ahead will be stopped at a distance that allows the straddling bus to turn.

The buses are 6 meters wide and 4.5 meters high, so they can straddle two lanes of traffic, and yet still fit under most existing overpasses. Each bus will have a capacity of 1,200 people, which sounds like a ridiculously large number, but then it's worth remembering that China already has 120 cities with more than a million inhabitants – and by 2030 it will have double that. You simply can't think in normal numbers when it comes to China.

Emergency exits will be handled with inflatable slides, much the same as those found on commercial aircraft, which is a fun idea – and the buses seem to be slated to park themselves in position at a station when they're not in operation, causing no more disruption to traffic than a tunnel would.

This is not a pipe dream – the pilot program goes into construction by the end of this year in the Mentougou district of Beijing, where 186km of tracks will be laid. If it works, you can expect to see it rolled out across China's large cities – and FAST. The next 20 years are going to see some thrilling technological advances as China plays catchup to its rampant population growth and booming economy. This is just the beginning. Exciting times for emerging tech heads!

This video shows a presentation in Chinese about the benefits of the Straddling Bus, along with a bunch of neat CGI renders to show how it's likely to work. For a full translation of the presentation, see China Hush. The Straddling Bus is designed by Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment Co. Ltd.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
11 Comments

What does it do when it comes up to a large articulated lorry or a vehicle that's taller than the rest - jump?

Elevated bus stops are one thing, but how on earth does someone in a wheel chair get on the bus and I can really see a mother with three kids hauling them and all the shopping up a ladder. Oh, I forgot, they only have one kid each and well... the kid can carry the shopping.

Stupid idea.

m0thman
4th August, 2010 @ 01:16 am PDT

the trouble with a lot of people is they only see the future as a continuation of today and not a chance to do things bigger and better than todays way !

robinyatesuk2003
4th August, 2010 @ 07:14 am PDT

Brilliant. In order to be practical, cars will have to wait until the bus has passed over before turning etc but that is no different than today's North American city buses blocking two lanes of surface traffic as they swing wide to turn (and, of course stop half way around the corner). I can see that the rail system would be a better overall solution because the rail(s) can be positioned off the normal traffic lanes, preventing inattentive drivers from straying into the path of the wheels, causing the bus to have to stop until the lane clears.

Muraculous
4th August, 2010 @ 07:55 am PDT

I remember when we used to bike down those streets - to my mind a superior form of transportation, but not without its own problems. M0thman shouldn't simply assume that those who conceived the idea haven't taken into account the problems he/she mentions and more - watch instead the presentation to which a link is provided in the article ! An imaginative approach to a giganta urban problem ; I hope Gizmag will follow this up and report on the results of the Mentougou pilot programme !...

Henri

mhenriday
4th August, 2010 @ 08:14 am PDT

Oh! *THAT* won't be the cause of any accidents...no way! And it's not a bus...it's an over street rail!

Ed
4th August, 2010 @ 01:23 pm PDT

I can see where it would take some getting used to.

"What the heck was that!!???", as it whooshes over the top of your vehicle

Roselense
4th August, 2010 @ 10:39 pm PDT

Note to china,

Please review 'monorail', and 'subway'.

Novel idea, but it won't work. I give this a D-

PeetEngineer
5th August, 2010 @ 09:46 am PDT

Awesome! This could be a greater feeder system to a mid distance light rail and long distance bullet train system, not only boosting jobs by thousands during infrastructure construction but if we play the trade game the way the Chinese do, we could require some assembly or modules be built here in the states. Moreover, as every country that has ever tried regional, long term transportation planning has shown, an overall encompassing transportation approach boosts efficiency and economic growth. Who needs jobs and economic growth, right?

I have read all the complaints and have yet to read one that 1) a college level engineering team could not solve and 2) a little education of the public could not solve. If one doesn't have the capacity to solve simple prolems one's self, one should get out of the way and let those who can, do.

Yes, there will be some accidents. But just like Portland has found with its downtown light rail, drivers have become accustomed to the system much more quickly than any one expected, with accidents about half of what was estimated.

I am not sure if it is arrogance or what, but when people dismiss an idea such as this after spending all of 30 seconds thinking about, do they actually think they are smarter than the hundreds of Chinese engineers and transportation experts who have spent thousands of hours digging deeply into this, often risking their careers on this?

Reminds me of the GM CEO who said in the early 2000's that nobody but a few tree huggers will ever buy a Prius.

dangzr
6th August, 2010 @ 08:11 am PDT

dangzr - I'm totally with you. Great concept...and by definition a concept means it still needs more engineering and development.

It's quite obvious, most everyone that's commented here so far are from the US, probably from some hill-billy backward area like the midwest, and have never traveled outside the country (and I don't mean Mexico or Canada).

This is China, people...they have their own way of doing things their own unique set of circumstances and requirements. I could totally see concept working in special applications. Just like we have HOV lanes here in the US where only car with more than 1 or 2 people can go in , or lanes that specifically prohibit trucks or buses, the same thing could be done with this application.

Very interesting idea and possible potential here.

dpark76
7th August, 2010 @ 07:06 am PDT

This straddling bus can be made to be very safe. It won't be making turns or lane changes except at marked locations or with traffic signal control. The bus can be equipped with sensors so it will stop behind an overheight vehicle or other obstruction.

Most of the time the bus won't be whooshing over anyone but rather cars will be shooting under it.

Now I think the undercarriage will be thicker than the model shows, looking more like pontoons rather than stilts. Either the lanes have to be wider or two lanes of traffic behind the bus get into single file when passing underneath.

I don't think the buses can park at the stations except after midnight. Smaller buses would not be able to fit under the straddling buses during off hours so the straddling buses need to run all day long.

Other questions and answers: http://www.cockam.com/stradbus.htm

Facebook User
1st September, 2010 @ 07:10 am PDT

You have lost it if you actually think this is a feasible concept.

It will never work.

Someone is pulling your leg, BIG TIME.

Christopher Carl Booher
30th October, 2010 @ 12:01 am PDT
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