If you’ve ever seen photos from those old tomorrowland-style expos in the 1950s, the future sure looked bright. Alas, the jetpacks and the hovercars still haven’t come to pass — but a new public transit initiative is getting us a little closer.
Officials in Tel Aviv, Israel, announced this week that the long-anticipated skyTran system should be up and running by the end of 2015. Tel Aviv — globally famous for its terminally congested traffic — will serve as the pilot program for planned systems in Europe, India and the United States.
The skyTran system uses a series of elevated magnetic tracks from which autonomous two-person vehicles are suspended. Call up a sky car on your smart phone and the pod-shaped vehicle will pick you up at a designated station and whisk you off to any other station on the system.
SkyTran cars on the initial 500-meter loop, built on the campus of Israel Aerospace Industries, will travel at speeds of up to 70 kilometers/hour (43 m.p.h.). Speedier vehicles will be introduced once the larger commercial infrastructure is in place.
Urban planning expert Joe Dignan told the BBC that the Tel Aviv project represents another step toward next-generation transit options.
“It will get the market in the mood for autonomous vehicles,” Dignan said. “It is not too scary, is cheaper than building out a train line and uses part of the urban landscape, 20 feet above ground, that isn’t currently used.”
Based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, the skyTran team has several projects in the works based on energy-efficient magnetic levitation (maglev) technology. Other skyTran routes in advanced planning include systems in Toulouse, France; Kerala, India; and San Francisco, California.
Check out the concept video below, which features some playful winks and nods to that peculiar style of old 1950s future expo imagery.