In the predecessor system to STT, Tubular Guideway Transit, a standard all-electric car was lightly modified to be the system’s car. The thought then was that the car’s manufacture could be counted on to produce a vehicle that would be road worthy and acceptable to the public.
In the four years since Tubular Guideway Transit was proposed, work has progressed on autonomous drive cars and that, along with the requirements of the guideway, indicate a need for a uniquely designed vehicle. The car’s design must integrate its functionality, its maintenance, its storage, and its relationship to the guideway.
The proposed system car is box like, built primarily from aluminum it carries four passengers comfortably and weighs about 1200 pounds. Four passenger, rather than two, adds utility during family use and freight carrying possibilities while not adding much weight. Note: in the 1960s, the original Fiat 500 weighed 1100 pounds and was a spartan 4 passenger vehicle. The early VW Buses weighted 2200 pounds, less than the current Mini
Cooper and carried 8 passengers. Both vehicles were of steel construction.
The proposed system vehicle is about half the weight of a compact electric car. The vehicle’s weight reverberates through the design of the entire system including the engineering of the guideway and the system’s energy efficiency.
Currently there are 240 million vehicles registered in the U.S. Replacing 100 million of them with 50 million light weight system vehicles would save transporting 180 billion pounds 1.5 trillion miles a year.
(50 million 1200 pound system vehicles, logging 30,000 miles per year verses
100 million, 2400 pound sub compacts driven 15,000 miles per year.)
The car is taller than a standard sedan but approximately 10 feet long. The undercarriage has a full body pan both for aerodynamic control and to help keep debris from entering the guideway.
The front and back seats face each other, an unorthodox arrangement that has several advantages. Facing seats use the interior space more efficiently and allows the car to be shorter. They also make loading packages into the car easier and the space between the seats could accommodate a wheelchair. A central sliding side door serves both the front and back seats and in case of an emergency, will allow passengers to exit from the car while in the guideway.
This configuration also informs the riders that they are passengers not drivers which should alleviates some initial performance anxiety.
Electric motors drive each of the four wheels. One option is to have the wheels fixed and steering accomplished by modulating the speed of the wheels rather than turning the front wheels. In this case the system car can turn 360 degrees in its own length, an attribute that is useful in compact parking facilities.
The wheels and tires have the thin, tall dimensions of those in early cars. Their small area of contact on the road or guideway surface reduces rolling resistance while their tall profile reduces heat buildup.
The roadway surface inside the guideway has two strips of flat steel which are tracks for the car’s tires. These smooth, continuous ribbons deliver a quiet, comfortable ride and low rolling resistance. On roads, off the guideway, the quality of the ride will depend on the car’s suspension.
Driving on smooth steel would seem to preclude emergency braking. Being in an enclosed environment under navigational control eliminates almost all necessity for emergency braking. If it should be needed, cars can move a few inches laterally off the steel track and be on a surface that will support quick stops.
It may be advisable to give the car the ability to lower and raise it’s wheels, lowering the undercarriage’s clearance in the tube, and raising it for outside road environments. This feature can also artificially bank the car in turns and if aerodynamic lift becomes a problem, the car can incline downward in the front. It would also be helpful for handicap access.
The system car has windows in the front and sides but not in the rear so when the car is part of a train inside the guideway, each car has its privacy. The windows in the car coincide with windows in the solar tube, allowing the passengers to see out to the landscape.
Adding solar collectors to the roof of the car is an open question. They will produce energy during the day when outside of the guideway and outside the system’s storage facilities. This may not be enough to justify their weight, cost, and maintenance.
The car will need to be equipped with a mechanism to access electricity from the tube. Current autonomous cars have their sensors located on the car’s roof but that may only be because they are a retrofit to existing automobile design.
As their numbers increase, their design remains stable, and manufacturing competition grows, the cost of an STT car will quickly decline. Because electric cars have far fewer moving parts they will have a usable life span of 40 to 50 years which greatly reduces the expense of fleet replacement.
Eventually there will be millions of system cars that have to be cleaned and serviced so they will need to be designed for robotic cleaning inside and out. The car is a component system so that its elements can be quickly replaced. Seats are the most likely item to be damaged or soiled so they should be programed to be maintained easily. Sanitizing cars between customers is also required.
Yes, the car is unattractive by automobile standards but the customer doesn’t own it. Our automobiles reflect our personalities and we feel they represent us. We don’t feel this way about the taxis, trains, busses, or airplanes we ride in because we don’t own them.
Automobiles have already largely lost their individual personalities and are becoming more like units. The cars depicted in TV ads as exciting driving machines, screaming across the salt flats, in reality, end up sitting in stop and go traffic. They will lose much of their charm when their drivers look up at the STT guideway and see these little vehicles whizzing by at 70 to 150 mph.
Customers have an account that is accessed through an application on their smart phone or pad. The smart phone provides secure access to the vehicle and becomes the vehicle’s dashboard. The customer can use it to direct the vehicle to a specific location or change destination while on route. Parents can lock their child’s phone so that it will only allow preset destinations and will allow the parent to follow the trip in progress. System vehicles can replace the school bus and the parent chauffeur.
Solar Tubular Transit is a redesigned successor to
Tubular Guideway Transit. http://www.tubularguidewaytransit.com/html/TGTnew.html
A concept sketch of the system vehicle. The vehicle is approximately 10 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches high and the doors are nearly 4 feet wide. The wheel wells are covered because the vehicle is depicted as steering by modulating wheel speed.
System vehicles have their batteries charged while running on the guideway or stored in system storage or at parking venues. A fully charged vehicle has a range of 80 miles off the guideway. Customers who travel away from the system can plug the vehicle in to recharge it. If a vehicle’s batteries begin to run low, the customer can always go to a system location and swap the vehicle in for a fully charged one.
Customer’s transaction with system vehicle.
System vehicles’s range off the guideway.
The vehicle is unattractive.