People have some creative solutions when it comes to avoiding traffic, but one idea in China takes things to another level—literally. An elevated bus that glides over cars just finished its first real-world test in China, and the innovative design is making waves around the world.
Transit Elevated Bus Concept
China is notorious for having some of the worst traffic problems in the world, so the country is trying a unique solution—a hybrid between light rail and a city bus. Known as TEB, the innovative bus design straddles two lines of the highway and glides over traffic, allowing cars to drive (or stay stuck in traffic) underneath. The vehicle runs on tracks that are laid along already existing ordinary roads and can reach speeds up to 38 miles per hour. Each cabin can hold up to 300 people and is about 72 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 26 feet high. Passengers have a variety of seating options, plus safety rails for those to choose to stand. Up to four cars can be linked together, allowing for 1,200 passengers to easily navigate through traffic.
“The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space,” said the project’s chief engineer, Song Youzhou.
The idea was first introduced in 2010, but didn’t gain much traction. A mini model of the TEB was introduced at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May. A prototype was built incredibly fast and was ready to test just three months later.
Pollution and Traffic Control
The TEB is powered by electricity, with the possibility of also being solar powered, and maximizes the number of people who can be on the road at one time by transporting large amounts of people above the cars currently on the road. It also cuts down on air pollution in a country that is already struggling to control the issue. Fifteen of the world’s 50 most congested cities are in China; four of those cities plan to run pilot tests of the TEB. Replacing hundreds of cars with a single electric-powered transit device could have a large effect on a city’s pollution.
TEB developers believe the system is more cost effective than building a large-scale subway system; the TEB has the same functions, but the cost of construction is less than one-fifth of building a subway system. According to the development firm, one TEB can replace 40 conventional buses, greatly reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
Recent tests along a 1,000-foot stretch of controlled track in the Chinese coastal city of Qinhuangdao allowed designers to check the brake and power systems of the bus.
Although the tests appear to have been successful, the future of the TEB is still relatively unknown. Developers don’t know if or when more trains will be constructed and sent to various cities around China. Several other cities and countries have expressed interest, but nothing is set in stone yet. The cost of the project is yet to be officially announced but is rumored to be around $4.5 million per TEB, which could be a major factor in other areas developing the technology.
Safety and Logistical Concerns
Though on paper, the TEB could solve many of China’s problems, it hasn’t come without criticism. The main concerns are related to safety. For one, the TEB has less than a seven-foot clearance underneath, meaning many trucks and larger vehicles wouldn’t fit or could be in danger of getting stuck under the bus. There are also concerns related to the visibility of driving underneath the TEB and the physiological effects it could have on drivers to have to steer their car through such a confined and dark space, even if only temporarily. The possibility of the TEB making it difficult for cars to turn or that it could be in the way of someone trying to open their door or cross the street are also drawing criticism.
Although few people are questioning the innovation of the design, some are wondering if other solutions like a fleet of electric city buses would be a more practical and safer solution.
The TEB could be a great solution to China’s pollution and traffic problems, or if could be a complete failure and a logistical nightmare. As this technology of the future continues to be developed, we’ll have to wait and see how the next tests turn out, along with the most important test—public perception.