Elevated Bus takes Flight

Remember back in May we ran a story about some crazy futuristic Chinese engineers who planned to build a bus that would glide above the traffic. Well, they have gone and done it and ran the very first tests.

The bus – well, at least a model of the bus – was unveiled at the 19th International High Tech Expo in Beijing and created a flurry of internet stories across the World Wide Web. The so-called straddling duckling – the Transit Elevated Bus, to give it its proper title – was put up as a low cost and rapid solution to the chronic congestion and pollution problems of rapidly expanding Chinese cities. It could ‘soar’ over the roofs of other road users, assuming that they were below 2.1 metres tall, that is.

The test was run over a mere 300-metre long track, away from other road users, with a single 22-metre long carriage that is capable of carrying a whopping 300 commuters. The plan is to link three together at a time and have some elevated platforms and also ramps that extend from the bus, down to ground level. Such proportions could save the city of Qinhuangdao in North East China some 800 tonnes of fuel a year and about 2500 tonnes of carbon emissions, by replacing up to 400 standard buses, not to mention the cost of building a metro system.

The test was as much a PR event as an engineering shakedown, with pictures showing a spacious interior along with beaming happy passengers gazing longingly out of the windows whilst the bus glides effortlessly over some stationary cars. In reality, the engineering team wanted to find out how much energy the Straddling Duckling actually used and whether the brakes worked, which is nice when they do.

There’s still loads of questions about the system – most importantly is how the heck it is not going to cause loads of traffic deaths? Can you imagine the absolute terror of a driver who is suddenly driven over for the first time –  like we once said, what could possibly go wrong?

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