Emissions from personal cars contribute an enormous amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, accounting for about one-fifth of all U.S. emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Citizens. These emissions are a major part of global warming, and some scientists think the only way to make a dent in the rising temperatures on our planet is to eliminate or severely reduce driving. But for a lot of cities lacking efficient mass-transit systems, that's a big challenge.
Transit X is proposing a solution that looks like it's out of a sci-fi movie: a network of automated, solar-powered pods. The start-up is testing its system in the Philippines, Fast Company reports. Each pod fits about five people, and is suspended from an elevated rail positioned 14 feet above the ground — high enough to allow a truck to pass under it. At each stop along the line, there would be a kiosk for people to enter their destination, and then get a direct route there.
Every platform is connected to an exit ramp, so pods can pass each other without collision. The lowered wait time is as important as the innovative approach to climate change, Transit X's CEO Mike Stanley told Fast Company.
“People don’t like to wait,” he told the business magazine. “They want to have a single seat and a private experience. So if you’re going to replace the dominant mode share of cars, you’d better give them something that they’ve already expressed a preference for rather than trying to force them into saying ‘use mass transit because it’s better for the environment.'”
Still in prototype phase, the pods for Transit X will be made of carbon-fiber to keep each of them at a weight of only 100 pounds — about 28 times less than the average car. It's estimated that a Transit X pod can cover 1,500 miles per gallon. But they will actually be powered by solar cells along their track, and charge while parked along the battery-holding support poles.
Stanley told Fast Company that the real achievement of the Transit X will be its ability to cover large areas easily while taking up far less space than highways. They're designed to be even more compact than bus stops on sidewalks in terms of space. That means increasing the capacity of a city for other things, like housing or green areas. Stanley believes that gives the network an even bigger economic value in cities that adopt them.
They're also less labor-intensive than building an underground metro, and don't require drivers or fuel, which makes the whole construction project an even bigger money saver. There's far less pollution involved and they could potentially still run in a snowstorm or flood that blocks standards roads. But the big challenge is getting a city to quickly adopt them.
“You have to think about a network, because the reason why we love roads is they go everywhere,” Stanley told Fast Company. “Unless you can go everywhere, you’re not going to be able to replace them. So what we’re proposing is that we do this very fast shift, so you’re basically creating a sparse, road-like network over the entire metro area. Nobody else really understands that’s what you need, and you need to have the financing, the capacity. It’s not a multimodal future. It’s a universal mode.”
There are plans to demonstrate a pilot system in Boston in late 2018, which will possibly give Transit X the opportunity to show how transformative their product could be.