Who's Steering This Thing? Magnetic Bus Makes its Debut

By Andrew Moseman | September 9, 2008 11:04 am

busIf you ever thought driving the same bus route over and over would be a boring job, just imagine if you weren’t even steering.

University of California, Berkeley researchers ran the first public test of their magnetically-steered bus system last week on a public street in San Leandro, Calif. While a human driver controlled braking and acceleration, a series of magnets embedded in the road guided the bus along its route. With the driving out of human hands, the scientists say, the bus runs its route more efficiently than ever—effortlessly pulling up to within a finger’s width of the curb to allow passengers easy access.

The magnets have to be placed a yard or so apart, running down the middle of the traffic land. And while giving away control of the bus to a mechanical system might be too much for some people, it’s not much different than the tracks that guide a light rail system, Berkeley scientist Han-Shue Tan says. Tan and colleagues hope that making the bus more efficient will lure more people to give up driving and take public transit.

It’s a noble goal—just make sure to buy more vehicles. There’s nothing worse than an overcrowded bus.

Image: flickr/Pro-Zak

MORE ABOUT: magnets, transportation

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