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This is an incredible example of how quickly innovations can be turned from ideas into real-world experiments.
A few months ago in May 2016, I saw some internet articles about a new public transport design from China: a “Transit Elevated Bus” (TEB) system which would drive above cars and be a frankenstein mix between a subway train, a bus and a moving tunnel.
I didn’t think much of it, as it was just a model design and there are thousands of those from design firms across the world.
However, last week I saw the Youtube video above: a firm in China has built the first prototype and is beginning to test it in the city of Qinhuangdao. And it’s chief suggests that it could be on the streets by the end of 2016 (i.e. within five months).
This means that within three months, a potentially groundbreaking innovation has gone from design release to real-world prototyping.
What is especially impressive here is that this is not a small product which can be rapidly and cheaply iterated in a lab. This is a big machine.
- 22m long
- 7.8m wide
- 4.8m high
- Capacity of 300 passengers per carriage (with multiple carriages possible)
- One four-carriage train could replace 40 buses, cutting fuel consumption by 882 tons per year
- Cost of $4.5million each (roughly the cost of 11 new emission-free buses)
The question on a lot of people’s minds is though: Is this a good idea?
While a lot of engineers are lauding the design and efficiency improvements, this is an excellent example of thinking how a new innovation fits into an overall whole system, and the risks and drawbacks that could entail.
For example, here are just a few of the considerations the new design has to consider:
- Height issues underneath the TEB: The design of the TEB is meant to allow roads to be used on two levels, with cars driving freely underneath the TEB. However, the area under the “bus”