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Superbus: on-demand luxury public transport at over 150 mph

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March 30, 2010

The Superbus will transport 23 passengers in transport where and when needed

The Superbus will transport 23 passengers in transport where and when needed

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Looking more like a futuristic stretch limo than a bus, the Superbus is a 15-meter long vehicle that provides seating for 23 passengers who can embark and disembark via its 16 gull-wing doors (eight on each side). The electric bus runs on four E2M electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries with its highly streamlined shape and lightweight construction designed to keep energy consumption down as it hurtles along at 155 mph.

Instead of adhering to a fixed schedule the Superbus is designed to be flexible and provide high volume, point to point transport on demand via a central routing optimization system.

Superbus Design

Designed by a team at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands the Superbus is able to alter its ground clearance to suit the road via front and rear lifting aluminum sub-frames. For city driving on existing roads the vehicle has a ground clearance of 40cm to allow it to be driven over speed bumps. Then when the bus hits a dedicated “Supertrack” it can be lowered to a ground clearance of 7cm and can reach speeds of 250 kmh (155 mph). These Supertracks would be built close to existing highways and would allow the bus to drive on autopilot. To prevent icing during winter the surface of these roads would store heat in the summer and release it in the winter.

Superbus: on-demand luxury public transport at over 150 mph

To keep weight down the chassis, including the cockpit and the rear are completely made of carbon fiber-epoxy composite, while the outer panels of the Superbus are made of IXIS, a composite material consisting of a foam core sandwiched between layers of thermoplastic fiberglass. This material boasts high energy absorption in the case of a collision and is also recyclable. Strong and lightweight Lexan polycarbonate was chosen for the glazing. To ensure low rolling resistance for minimum energy consumption special tires needed to be developed by Vredestein with the dimensions of a truck tire, but with the specifications of a sport-scar tire.

Safety

For improved safety the vehicle includes a fast responding electronic guidance system and obstacle detection systems using radar to detect objects from a few hundred meters away. To improve maneuverability the rear wheels of the bus also steer. The bus boasts 750 onboard sensors to detect such things as whether all passengers have fastened their seat-belts and if there is anyone standing in range of the doors while they are opening and closing.

Interior

The interior of the vehicle is designed to provide comfortable, luxurious and private travel space for the passengers. It is split into two main parts: the passenger compartment and the cockpit. The passenger compartment is then divided into three cabins using two transparent dividing screens. The first cabin offers a single row of forward facing seats with each passenger provided with a personal table, headset and a multimedia screen. The two cabins behind have two rows of seats that face each other with a large foldable conference table in the middle, which also holds multimedia screens.

Superbus: on-demand luxury public transport at over 150 mph

On Demand Public Transport

Recognizing that flexibility is one of the major strengths of the car the Superbus will pick up passengers near their homes when needed. In order to make the goal of a point to point on demand system a reality the project will look to develop a special ordering system. This ordering system will receive pickup requests from the Internet and SMS and will combine passengers with the same origin and destination as much as possible to minimize the distance traveled and the number of stops needed during the trip. Its developers say fares for the Superbus service would be comparable with present day public transport prices.

Test Drive

To evaluate the Superbus concept the project team built a test mule to do a series of test runs before starting assembly of the demonstrator vehicle. The first test drive of the Superbus mule took place at the RDW test center in Lelystad on October 19, 2008, with three subsequent test-drives culminating in a fourth and final test drive on January 31, 2009.

The Superbus test mule

Satisfied with the results of the Superbus mule test-drives the project has turned to the construction of a full prototype. The chassis has been completed and the glazing and body panels have been attached, giving the Superbus its distinctive shape. Work then moved to the interior with the upholstery finished on January 21, 2010. After the completion and evaluation of the prototype the project will move to the final phase which will see the Superbus enter large scale production with TU Delft hoping to market the vehicle worldwide.

Project Team

The Superbus team boasts some impressive names. It was designed by Dr Antonia Terzi, the former chief aerodynamicist of the BMW-Williams Formula 1 team, while Prof. Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutchman in space, is the project’s General Manager. The project has also garnered sponsorship from a number of sources including the Netherlands government, which has pledged 77 million euro to the project in addition to industry sponsors. Over 45 suppliers, including Bose, Logitech, Hella, E2M technologies and Bosch have also gotten behind the project.

It’s still a few years before we’re likely to see the Superbus taking passengers, but here’s hoping it will one day mean an end to the aging, pollution spewing, less than punctual and even less comfortable mobile boxes I’m forced to endure at the moment.

Via Red Ferret

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
15 Comments

This really does seem like a cool idea but the hurtle I see for any city’s interested in getting this is that it needs to put together a dedicated road system and infrastructure just to accommodate it. That seems like it would be a bit daunting? But it sure looks cool! :-)

mrhuckfin
31st March, 2010 @ 04:56 am PDT

Wow! I don't like public transportation- but this may change my mind...

Facebook User
31st March, 2010 @ 06:56 am PDT

So, how much does it cost per mile?

froginapot
31st March, 2010 @ 09:24 am PDT

While the basic idea is sound, this is a huge waste of money as done. It shouldn't cost more than $2million to do the first 3.

Unless the road has a third rail it should a be a hybrid. Next the wheel placement, aero is a joke even with rear steering. The wheels need to be much farther to the center or it's not going to work on regular streets.

With a shorter wheelbase, hybrid drive it could be practical and run 100-120mph on the autoban at far lower cost. Also building it from CF is too expensive by a factor of 10 when medium tech composites would be better, more crash resistant and far less expensive.

PS I build composite EV's.

jerryd
31st March, 2010 @ 09:49 am PDT

Having to install a completely separate roadway alongside existing roadways would only make sense if it can be done cheaper than laying train tacks - which I don't think it can. The individual cars may be less costly than high speed trains, but then again, the trains don't neccesarily have to be so huge. Why not make smaller train cars along this line, they could depart more regularly if you aren't waiting to load up a couple hundred passengers at a time. The small train idea make sense, the special highway car doesn't really, unless of course you are looking for a program to generate more roadway construction jobs.

Eletruk
31st March, 2010 @ 10:03 am PDT

Congrats to the team . I think the team has blended the aircraft with a car which I am aslo thinking for my current design of a cheaper transport in India .

subras3d
31st March, 2010 @ 10:25 am PDT

Perhaps this a bus that might tempt Jeremy Clarkson ?

Dave Matthews
31st March, 2010 @ 06:31 pm PDT

Why not invent specially powered individual transportation pods that can be loaded with passengers and each vehicle sent to their own custom appointed destination of the passenger's desire, and utilize current roads in place now?

Oh yeah... those are called cars... ;)

matthew.rings
31st March, 2010 @ 08:02 pm PDT

Fantastic design

Jaiganesh Jai
31st March, 2010 @ 09:14 pm PDT

We all know trains are a terrible idea. Big, expensive, dangerous, inefficient, unpleasant, and a general a pain in the but to everyone around them. So compared to a train this is brilliant. That said you still have the obvious problem, who is going to waste their time with this thing. This fills no current market need. It is overly complicated and unrealistic.

Trains are for freight, cars are for people, how hard is that for people to get.

I would take a PRT system over this anyday.

Michael Mantion
1st April, 2010 @ 03:25 pm PDT

Michael take a train ride from Milan to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Cologne and tell me again that you still hate trains. In America or Australia trains might totally suck, but in Western Europe they are a mighty fine way to travel and see the sights, with room to walk around and stretch your legs. And does your car have a toilet and snack bar?

Julian Siuksta
1st April, 2010 @ 06:30 pm PDT

An important advantage with trains compared to planes actually, is that trains go into the city centre, and you just get on board without check in or having to show up way in advance or standing in line for security checks. This alone is at least an hour difference on any plane trip. The commute will ad at least another hour. In Europe, high speed trains are actually faster and MUCH more reliable than planes, even on fairly long distance trips. Of course they are in a totally different league if comparing comfort and safety. But these trains are not the normal type of train, and need specific costly infrastructures.

This "Superbus" uses some of the same advantages as trains have, by increasing comfort and removing the wasted time at each end of the trip, but taking it even further. It will go all the way from your door to your final destination almost like a taxi. I think this may make the total travel time very competitive, even without extensive extra road track building. But to compete with train reliability and speed, the congested highways are not suited.

The reason it may be competitive with cars, is of course the same as other public transport: Price, convenience and comfort. The total cost of car travel is quite a lot higher than public transport alternatives. Especially so if including the bills picked up by the public. Spending the travel time relaxing, or being entertained by a movie or book, or actually working, makes the travel time become just fine or even productive. Not so with a car. Finding parking space is often impossible where you want to go, but luckily the passengers will not worry about parking the "Superbus".

The "Superbus" may also be called a taxibus, or as similar less fancy versions that have operated successfully many places for decades: "Service taxis". They're biggish cars or small buses operating like normal taxis, but way cheaper, since they pick up more passengers along the way. This makes the trip take a bit longer, but normally not much.

Utilizing a more advanced system for organizing pickup and drop of the various passengers would make this a certain success anywhere. Especially so if the vehicle had the speed, comfort, aestethics and luxury aura of the "Superbus".

Stein
2nd April, 2010 @ 10:20 am PDT

Nice idea for high speed transport. I think that the cost will outweigh the benefit, cheaper to purchase a normal bus right?

Adelaide in South Australia has a high speed bus system. The O-bahn uses normal buses fitted with a roller on each side of the front to auto steer down a purpose built concrete track and can also drive anywhere else that it is required.

"To prevent icing during winter the surface of these roads would store heat in the summer and release it in the winter" And just how will this be done? If you can do that, Im sure every home in the world would want this technology to store heat for months and release on demand through winter.

Overall this might suit places that have decent high speed roads for major point to point travel. This could be aimed at the high rollers.

Iain Roberts
4th April, 2010 @ 03:41 pm PDT

No doubt the design is unique. It is pleasing to the eye and a lot of research might have gone into its design and testing. What astonishes me is that let it not end up," WHERE THERE IS A WHEEL - THERE IS NO WAY".

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
5th April, 2010 @ 11:35 am PDT

For me the concept sounds interesting %u2013 but in fact I still can%u2019t imagine how it will work yet.

Anyways I found a nice video showing the Superbus. It looks absolutely stunning to me!

http://www.myvan.com/2010/10/19/bus-of-the-future-superbus/

van_pire
20th October, 2010 @ 02:33 am PDT
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