"Levitating" Transporter Pods: The Cars of the Future?

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 22, 2009 10:16 am

SkyTran station - mountain webMeet SkyTran, a proposed rapid transportation system that uses computer-controlled vehicles that use magnets to “levitate” from their rails. A passenger would enter a pod, type in where he or she wants to go, and the computer system would do the navigating (and driving). The pods would carry up to three people and travel up to 150 mph. The system would be computerized to deploy the pods to crowded areas, and smart enough to re-route to avoid traffic jams.

Discovery Channel reports:

The pods are designed to hang beneath an elevated guideway. They are propelled by the interaction of electromagnetic fields. Unimodal expects the pods to eventually be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 150 mph.

The California based company that came up with the design, Unimodal Systems, wants to make SkyTran a reality. According to their Web site:

The internet allows more throughput and better connectivity than the circuit switching method of the classic telephone network. SkyTran does the exact same thing for transportation – individually switched SkyTran vehicles rather than single-destination trains.

First, the company would like to build the systems in crowded areas like airports or downtown. The next step would be to hook the pods up with public transportation systems like San Fran’s BART. And ultimately, the company plans to break into the consumer market and reduce our reliance on cars.

Anyone curious about how the system would look can check it out when it goes on display in NASA Research Park at Ames (sometime in the near future).

Related Content:
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DISCOVER: Future Car Ideas

Images: SkyTran

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • MartyM

    That would be cool as long as the control and navigation systems weren’t developed by the likes of Microsoft. That would mean daily updates and virus protection. Can you imagine traveling at 150mph and seeing the “blue screen of death”?

  • MichaelM

    Or even worse, having the pod arrive with a big pile of stinking brown stuff left on the seat. People will do the most disgusting things if they think they can get away with it.

    (Comment based on an actual experience with Atlanta MARTA.)

    At least in the U.S. I’ve never heard of this occurring in Europe or Japan, China.

  • http://skytran.net Derek

    If a SkyTran vehicle was unacceptable in any fashion (graffiti, other cleaning), you would reject the vehicle and take the next in line, while the flagged vehicle returned to the nearest maintenance facility.

  • http://theczardictates.blogspot.com CarlZ

    It sounds like the propulsion is a linear induction motor, although the website seems to go out of their way to avoid saying so. Interesting that they are using suspension from an overhead rail rather than the more commonplace levitation over a track.

  • Jason

    RE: Safety

    How safe are cars? I guess the difference is at least someone not something was responsible for the deaths of innocents.

  • http://images.google.com/images?q=tykeisha%20thomas&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi nova terata

    MichaelM: True That! Somethin Wicked Came That Way

  • Howie

    Safety is a MAJOR reason why SkyTran rides on elevated tracks, not sharing a road with Hummers and semi trailers and children running into the street. SkyTran cars are very small and light — why they calculate they will get the equivalent of 200 MPG even at 100 MPH. Such a small, light vehicle would be unsafe on the ground, but locked to a track 20-30 feet up, it should be extremely safe.

    The SkyTran automatic control problem is infinitely simpler than the DARPA Challenge autonomous vehicles, or ideas about computer-guided personal airplanes: 1 dimension not 2-3 — the computer just needs to make sure there’s a break in traffic before it merges onto the overhead guideway, and brake if the vehicle ahead slows down.

  • http://guitartutorialsblog.com Josylyn

    I think that’s the technology being used in Japan right now. It’s like riding on an airplane, completely noiseless and smooth and very fast too.

  • http://vacuumstoragebags.net James D. Kane

    Awesome! This is just like the ones in the mission impossible movie. Can’t wait to try one of these!

  • http://www.ccnabooksblog.com Kimberly Larsh

    My question regarding this thing is the cost. I’m pretty sure this would cost millions… if not billions.

  • http://www.tongkataliexperiences.com XieXie

    Is this 100% safe? Commenting about the “stinking brown stuff” that MichaelM said, I guess it pod shoudl have a camera, so we can monitor who will do things such as this.

  • http://www.sd-200.com Sabrina J.

    This is pretty cool! Although there won’t be any variety. The pods would look the same, all of them.

  • http://www.indonesiatongkatali.com Patrick D.

    I like this idea. Is there any computer simulation for this one?

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