Feeds

NASA works on robo-podcab scheme

Robosaurus inventor gets backing for Mag-lev personal transporter

Top three mobile application threats

NASA software boffins have partnered with a Californian firm to work on a "personal rapid transit" system which would operate using a system of automated two- or three-person taxi-style "pods" travelling on overhead magnetic rail networks.

Concept of the Unimodal SkyTran system in use in Dubai.

Someone's had a little accident in this pod, I'm getting in the next one

The so-called "SkyTran" system has been touted since the 1990s by engineer Douglas Malewicki, perhaps most famous as the inventor of Robosaurus - a 40-foot tall, 30-tonne firebreathing robot capable of crunching cars and planes in its mechanical jaws, popular at American monster truck shows and the like. Malewicki has also worked in the aerospace industry on the Apollo moonshot programme and the B-2 Stealth bomber among other things, and has also invented various jet packs, rocket bikes, submarines and so forth.

The idea of SkyTran is that lightweight "guideways" would be supported above roads and streets, either by ordinary metal utility poles or even brackets fixed to the sides of buildings. Every half-mile or so in the city there would be a SkyTran station/pod-rank with several streamlined electric vehicles lined up waiting.

A user would simply board the first pod, type in a destination and pay - probably using a smartcard system similar to London's Oyster card. The pod would move off, using a solid-state linear motor to lift its rooftop bogie off the guide rail and move itself along. After gathering speed on the siding guideway serving the stop, it would then move into the stream of pods flowing along the main lines of the network. Having dropped off its passenger(s) at their chosen stop, the pod could join the rank there or be sent elsewhere by the system as required.

Malewicki thinks the pods would be able to achieve 60 to 80 mph for short journeys on a city grid system, and up to 200mph on longer haul links across or between cities.

One problem for SkyTran is getting a city, airport or other local transit authority to take it seriously. Malewicki's colourful history probably hasn't helped here, and in fact the idea has now been farmed out to a company, Unimodal, which carefully makes no mention of him.

Another hurdle to be overcome is the necessary and highly complex control software which would be required by a large automated SkyTran network. That's where NASA comes in: boffins at the space agency's Ames research centre in California announced yesterday that they would team up with Unimodal to try out their Plan Execution Interchange Language (PLEXIL) and Universal Executive (UE) software on a SkyTran test setup.

“This collaborative effort is anticipated to help NASA with its aeronautics and space activities, while Unimodal gets to develop the next generation high-speed transportation system,” said NASA's Jeffery Smith. “NASA will receive valuable feedback from our systems software usage.” ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.