Sunday, August 8, 2010

Revved Over China's 3D Bus

You have to hand it to the Chinese; they're a nation full of surprises, the latest being a 3D bus that straddles cars, in theory reducing pollution and traffic congestion. Imagine the impact on anyone living or commuting in urban areas.

The Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment Co. is developing a "3D Express Coach" (also known as a "three-dimensional fast bus").

The bus, operating like a moving tunnel through which cars travel, represents a cross between a futuristic sci-fi flick and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” – in particular the scene where Harry’s bus compacts to squeeze into the space between vehicles.

And this is the same China that has surpassed the United States as the world leader in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? The innovation allows cars less than 2 meters tall to travel underneath the upper level of the vehicle, which will be carrying passengers.

According to China Hush, the 6-meter-wide 3D Express Coach will be powered by a combination of electricity and solar energy, and will be able to travel up to 60 kilometers per hour and carry 1,200 to 1,400 passengers.

The first 115 miles of track is set for construction in Beijing's Mentougou district starting in late 2010. Song Youzhou, chairman of the 3D bus company, boasts it will take only a year and 500 million yuan (around $73 million) to build the futuristic transportation system.

As China Hush notes, a big concern at the top of an urban transportation planner’s mind is how to speed traffic. Putting more buses on the road will jam the roads even worse and deteriorate the air; building more subway is costly and time consuming.

The straddling bus, first exhibited at the 13th Beijing International High-tech Expo in May, represents a cheaper, greener and faster alternative. It is completely powered by municipal electricity and solar energy, and achieves "zero toxic gas throughout the process," according to The Urban Times.

Ultrasonic waves from the end of the bus will keep high-profile vehicles or trucks from entering the tunnel. The bus will use laser rays to scan, so cars which get too close to the passage will activate a bus alarm, the Times reports.

Inside the bus, turn lights will alert vehicles when the bus intends to change direction. Also, a radar scanning system will be embedded on the bus walls to warn cars from getting too close to the bus wheels.

China receives much criticism (and rightly so) in the United States and elsewhere for its lack of human rights and export of products containing toxic-hazardous materials, but the straddling bus is a smart drive toward a global solution.

Imagine such a vehicle operating in New York City, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Instead of widening highways, which typically exceed capacity after the ribbon is cut, why can’t America develop innovative transportation technology?

China does not hold a monopoly on brainpower; we have many bright and talented professionals in this country (the land that put a human on the moon in 1969, perhaps mankind’s ultimate achievement to date).

America’s best days don’t have to be behind it (stealing from President Ronald Reagan) if we choose to use forward thinking, entrepreneurial will and financial muscle to develop solutions for the planet.

Instead of lamenting how China is vying against us for world domination (trade and energy), we should steal a page from our Cold War past involving the old Soviet Union and compete directly, political systems aside.

Anyone who appreciates the history of the United States knows we do our best when Americans are faced with competitive challenges. It’s how inventions result and consumers benefit.

We should be looking to see if we can do better than the Chinese version of the straddling bus. If we can put someone on the moon, about 239,000 miles away, we can certainly get a better handle on problems here on Earth.

President Reagan had it right in his first inaugural address in 1981:

"It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal."

As for me, I practice what I preach at

1 comment:

  1. I think this is absolutely amazing and scary at the same time. We can learn a lot from the innovation in China. I’ll be moving to China soon so maybe I’ll be among the first to ride the giant bus…