High-tech in the land of the Sleeping Dragon
By Glenn Swain
China is on the fast track to possibly overtake Japan next year to become the country with the second-most vehicles on the road. Vehicle ownership in China is expected to top 75 million in 2011, according to Xu Changming, a research director at the State Information Center.
Workers at China-based Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment are preparing for the vehicle onslaught by planning the “3D Express Coach,” a two-level transit vehicle that allows cars on the same roadway to pass beneath. Nicknamed the “Straddling Bus,” the futuristic concept looks like a subway or light-rail train that runs alongside a roadway. Powered by both electricity and solar energy, the bus will be able to travel up to 40 miles an hour. The contemporary transit vehicle will receive an electrical charge at each terminal from sliding contacts connected to the roof of the bus. Sunlight from above – if it’s not too smoggy – will do the rest.
The new bus will carry 1,200 to 1,400 passengers at a time without blocking other vehicles right of way. Passengers board on the upper level while other vehicles lower than two meters can pass through underneath. It will also have an inflatable escape ladder in case of emergencies. The bus will be fitted with autopilot technology.
The company says the cost to build the bus will be the equivalent of nearly $74 million. A mock-up of the bus will be put to its first test in Beijing’s Mentougou District. Construction is slated to begin late this year on the first 115 miles of track. The company claims the ultramodern transit vehicle could reduce traffic jams by 20 to 30 percent, decrease annual fuel usage by 860 tons and promises to drastically reduce carbon emissions.
There are still some unknowns, like how comfortable will drivers be attempting to drive into the bus while it’s moving. As cities in China grow increasingly clogged with vehicles and drivers grow more irate and late, the question could be answered quickly. Given the opportunity to either sit in traffic or accelerate into the Straddling Bus, Chinese drivers will soon learn the meaning of “just passing through.” BR