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New Mode of Surface Transportation for 21st Century: Autoway

What is Autoway?
What are the benefits of Autoway?
Some random thoughts about transportation
Why existing transportation modes cannot solve the traffic problems? ( A more detailed discussion in PDF file )
How PAT Will Shape the City in the Future. A presentation at the technical meeting of Advanced Transit Association, January 20, 2007.
Videos explain the concept of Autoway and show the building of Autoway track posted at YOUTUBE.com (search acroscape).

What is Autoway?

Autoway is a personal automated transportation system for passengers and light freights. It can be constructed with a minimum impact on existing structures due to its small space requirements. The focus of autoway is commuting and e-commerce. ( A brief introduction in PDF file. )

The main design features include:

  1. Fuel efficiency: 250 mile/gallon (100 km/liter);
  2. Lane capacity: 11,180 person/hr; and even higher for emergency evacuation;
  3. Speed: 65 mile/hr (100 km/hr) in urban areas, 90 mile/hr (150 km/hr) for intercity traffic.

As an automated system, it is as easy and safe to use as an elevator. The only thing you need to know is your destination. Even a school child can use it on her own. Sitting in an executive chair in your private vehicle, with your favorite music in the background, you are browsing the internet for the news over your morning coffee. This would be the commuting experience on autoway.

Small vehicles are chosen for energy efficiency, safety, and the predominant urban use pattern. The vehicle can seat one adult, or one adult plus two preschool children.

Autoway track is typically constructed as a small overhead structure less than 3 feet wide. This narrow track can be readily built on existing roads and streets with minimum visual impacts. The light vehicles move quietly on the track without the noises associated with rail, subway, and highway. One track will be equivalent to 5 lanes of highway in passenger capacity. The high capacity of autoway effectively solves the rush hour traffic congestions of modern cities. Sounds like the futurist's cars in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. But it is a technology that can be widely implemented in a few years.

As for e-commerce, Autoway provides a cost-effective system for local delivery of light freights. As an automatic system, it is ideally suited to e-commence for businesses and consumers. A distribution center can handle a region with a radius of 100 miles. People can also choose their preferred delivery time.

What are the benefits of Autoway?

Autoway provides a global solution to traffic related problems: traffic congestion, air pollution, energy shortage, and traffic accidents. Moreover, autoway will start a new wave of tremendous business opportunities in both high-tech and manufacturing.

Gone are the days of traffic congestion. Autoway provides a high capacity and high speed transportation mode for commuters, with a high standard of safety, comfort, and reliability.

The fuel efficiency will be around 250 miles per gallon (100 kilometers per liter). We will have clean air. Hopefully, we will also have world peace. The oil dependence has led to many international conflicts due to concerns of energy security.

The 19th century was the time of railway and trains. The 20th century was the time of highway and cars (and runway and aircrafts to a less degree). Along with them were tremendous business opportunities and economic growth. Autoway will bring an economic boom for the 21st century.

Why existing transportation modes cannot solve the traffic problems?

First, if a problem remains unsolved for a long time, that suggests conventional tricks may not work. Traffic congestion and air pollution have been serious problems in many cities around the world. The problems have been recognized for a long time in developed countries, and the situations are also becoming serious in many developing countries. Energy shortage is another serious problem associated with transportation. Another way to see why existing modes alone cannot solve the problem is the transportation budget. Normally if a transportation system is used by more people, the cost per capita should be lower. The transportation budget crisis in many congested areas indicates some fundamental flaws.

Second, a modern city has a complex and multi-component economic structure. This leads to a dispersed, distant and complex urban transportation. The characteristics of modern urban transportation affect the effectiveness of a specific transportation mode.

Automobile is certainly the most convenient and comfortable means for passenger transportation. 90% of people drive to work in the United States. But automobile is also the source of traffic congestion and air pollution. Moreover, even in the United States, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the population cannot drive because either they are too young, or too old, or for other reasons. At a certain stage, building more roads is no longer economically feasible. Safety and land use are additional side effects. Every year about 45,000 people die in traffic accidents in the United States despite improvements in car safety. It is reported that about 2% of US land is used for pavement and parking, or about 10% of arable land.

Existing public transportations, like buses, subway and railway trains, are no longer convenient for the dispersed, distant and complex urban transportation, and significant government subsidies are often required to sustain the public transportation system. Even in densely populated cities with a well-developed public transportation system, buses and subway trains are not so convenient. In less populated areas, buses and trains are neither convenient nor cost-effective. It is even difficult to recoup the operation cost, to say nothing of the infrastructure investment.

The debate between automobile and the public transportation systems will lead us nowhere. Automobile and existing public transportation systems all have the strength in some aspects and weakness in other aspects. It is futile to find a satisfactory solution from the existing systems. There is a gap in the existing systems. It is essential to think outside the box.

Therefore, the traffic problems cannot be solved by existing transportation modes alone. We need to add an additional mode to the surface transportation system. Autoway is complementary to the existing roadway system. This will significantly increase the efficiency of the whole transportation system, including the existing transportation modes. People will have more choices of transportation options. Automobile, buses, railway trains, airplanes, and autoway will all play their different and effective roles in the transportation system.

Last updated January 15, 2008.

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