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A California company is getting ready to test a new form of elevated train at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) that could lead to a revolution in mass transit in – or rather over – the congested streets of Tel Aviv and perhaps eventually in India and the United States.
The pilot project by skyTran will be a simple loop between 400 and 500 yards, 20 feet off the ground, at IAI’s campus in central Israel. If successful, skyTran plans to build a commercial transit network in Tel Aviv, according to Jerry Sanders, the company’s CEO.
The skyTran system consists of two-person pods suspended from elevated magnetic levitation tracks. The IAI prototype will cruise at a maximum of just over 40 mph, but the commercial version is expected to reach speeds of nearly 150 mph.
Sanders told Reuters that he chose Tel Aviv for the first commercial use of the skyTran system because the city has no subway, plenty of commuters, and therefore its streets are hopelessly jammed. Add to that, he said, “Israelis love technology and we don't foresee a problem of people not wanting to use the system.”
The pilot system should be in operation by the end of 2015, Sanders said, about the time the company expects to complete preparations for the first stage of the commercial line in Tel Aviv. He says the commercial system is likely to be about 2-1/2 miles long with three stations, and cost an estimated $50 million.
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Here’s how it works. As with ride sharing, you’d use your smart phone to order a skyTran car to meet you at a specific transit station. You – and maybe one fellow passenger – would then move on to another station. As the skyTran infrastructure grows, the closer you’re likely to get to where you want to go. The cost of a ride hasn’t been determined.
Even though it hasn’t been built, the skyTran concept is winning praise from one expert on what’s known as smart-city technology. Joe Dignan says, “It will get the market in the mood for autonomous vehicles. It is not too scary, is cheaper than building out a train line and uses part of the urban landscape, 20 feet above ground, that isn't currently used.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com