If you start seeing long worm-like vehicles swallowing up cars on Chinese highways, don’t be alarmed. The country is just solving its massive traffic problem.
These odd-looking vehicles are known as “straddling buses.” They’re essentially oversized trains that have been hollowed out to allow cars to pass through — sort of like a mobile tunnel. Approximately 1,400 people can board the buses, removing the need for additional subway systems or pollution-prone cars.
The company behind the buses estimates each one will cut fuel consumption by 800 tons and carbon emissions by 2,500 tons, City Lab reports.
China doesn’t yet have the extreme driving culture America does. But in a country with over a billion people, even a mild interest in driving still equates to hundreds of millions of cars clogging the roadways.
What’s worse, emissions from all this traffic (in addition to the heavy manufacturing that goes on in China) has led to some of the worst pollution in the world. In December, Beijing issued its first-ever emergency alert due to dangerous smog levels.
The proposed straddling buses would be all-electric, travel approximately 40mph, and give seven feet of headway to cars travelling underneath.
Song Youzhou, an engineer from the company leading the development, Transit Explore Bus, says the first tests on a life-size model could take place in July or August in the Chinese province of Changzhou.
If the tests actually happen, it will be the first time straddling buses become more than just thought experiments. The idea was first proposed way back in 1969, and Song revived the plans in 2010, but ultimately went nowhere.
The new plans seem to be generating more interest. A scale-model debuted recently at the 19th International High-Tech Expo in Beijing. Spectators got to see firsthand just how the buses would straddle the existing highways on a specially designed track.