Imagine if, instead of wasting hours in gridlock, you could fly above it for the same price as a bus or subway ride.
That’s the idea behind skyTran, a self-driving monorail that would hover 20 feet above roads and travel up to 150 mph. According to CEO Jerry Sanders, the system could turn a two-hour car commute into a 10-minute trip.
“Everyone hates commuting, but there are no solutions,” Sanders tells Tech Insider. “The only way to get around traffic is to literally go above it.”
SkyTran's 900-foot test station will open on the campus of Israel Aerospace Industries near Tel Aviv by the end of this year. Sanders estimates that it could expand to other countries, like India, France, and the US by 2018.
Developed by Doug Malewicki, an engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center, the 300-pound pods would use magnets to hang from slender rails. It would use the same amount of electricity as two hair dryers, Sanders says.
SkyTrans' aluminium rail would levitate with just gravity, magnets, and a short burst of electricity. Once the pod reaches 10 mph, it would continue to glide and accelerate without any additional power, in a process called passive magnetic levitation.
NASA also claims it would only cost about $13 million per mile to build, whereas a subway system can cost at least $160 million for the same distance.
The tracks could run through airports, universities, and offices. NASA could even build stations in apartment lobbies.
The tiny stations are perfect for large urban areas, because cities wouldn't need a ton of space to build them. Construction would only take a few days, Sanders says.
Under skyTran's plan, each pod would serve a larger network that includes stations throughout the city.
The skyTran system would learn from itself. It would predict how many people would need pods and at what times.
NASA developed four different types of steel and aluminium pods -- one that sits two people, one that sits four, one for the disabled, and one for larger cargo.
To request a pod, riders would go to the closest station. Once they enter their destination in the skyTran app, it would assign them a pod.
Unlike a typical tram or subway system, skyTran wouldn't have a schedule. Passengers would just get in the first pod that shows up.
SkyTran's computer system would then send its passengers automatically to their destinations. Because it would hover in the air, it would never need to stop at stations or for traffic.
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