Comprehensive coverage

An array of computerized vans can replace public and private transportation in the city, without detection

The technology is already ripe, claim the adherents of the method, the economy and politics are not yet

The popular Mazda Lantis has engine power that 15 years ago was reserved only for sporty GTI cars. Modern cars are more powerful and faster than ever, but these performances mostly remain on paper. What speed can you reach on a congested road, how fast can you accelerate in a dead-end intersection? The pleasure of driving is reserved for nights on remote roads, and basically remains an unrealized passion.

In the reality of the roads in the center of the country, a car is nothing more than a means of transportation, a means of transportation from home to work and back. Driving is no longer driving, but a routine pressing of pedals and turning a steering wheel in an air-conditioned cellular atmosphere.

And as for driving like a robot, why bother driving at all, why won't someone else do the dirty work and leave us the leisure time to read a newspaper, relax and stop thinking about the non-existent parking. One option is a taxi - too expensive. Another option, a bus - slow, cumbersome, unpleasant. a train? nothing.

A completely different solution, P-RT (Personal Rapid Transit), was used already in the 60s. The PRT is based on automatic cars, each of which takes a small number of passengers exactly to the desired destination. The wagons can travel along one lane or on a road where an electronic device has been installed to ensure that they do not deviate from the track. All the vans will be monitored by a central computer. One has to imagine a network of tracks, physical or electronic, along and across which run automatic carriages carrying one person, two or a family to the desired destination, and then continuing on, to transport other passengers.

The technology has been around for a long time. The costs are not in the sky. According to some studies, RT has many advantages over the train. It is cheaper to build and consumes less land resources, the transportation is personal, almost private and much more flexible. The passengers do not wait for the train - the carriages wait for them.

Several bodies in Western Europe, and especially in the United States, are working to promote the idea. One of the prominent companies, Taxi 2000, was founded at the University of Minnesota in the 80s. Seven years ago, the Taxi 2000 program was acquired by the Raytown company, which is mainly associated with military means, but is also associated with transportation projects. An experimental PRT system has been operating for several years on the campus of West Virginia University.

And the obvious question - if it's so successful, why don't you already see such automatic vans on the streets today? Oded Roth, a lawyer from Tel Aviv, came up with a PRT-like idea himself, after a night of wandering the Internet. "I sat in front of the computer and thought, why not imitate the Internet. On the Internet you send or receive bits of information from computers all over the world. The pieces of information know how to reach you automatically. Why not copy this method for transportation. A car with a computer will be waiting for you and it will take you where you need to go."

Roth discovered that his idea was not original. He contacted researchers in the field, and also Prof. Edward Andersen, president of 2000 Taxi. Roth's conclusion is that FRT is not implemented because people do not want the idea to come true. "People are used to living in a certain way, even if it is a bad way. And apart from that, a lot of economic forces do not want change", says Roth, "the car industry has a strong lobby among the governments of the world, and around it there are huge economic systems of fuel, garages, insurance". Roth quotes Andersen, who wrote: "We're using 19th century technology in 21st century reality, and it just doesn't work."

But PRT also has its shortcomings. One of them is the fact that lines and stations on non-central routes will not pay off economically. However, computing costs have been greatly reduced, and tiny processors will soon be found in every household electrical appliance. And it is also understood that the need to find transportation solutions has sharpened in recent years. The problems of air pollution and traffic accidents have worsened. "The PRT under computer supervision will of course solve the issue of accidents," says Roth, "the current situation reminds me of the wise men, whose city streets have many potholes and people fall into them; Everyone says - we will build fences around the pits, we will appoint policemen, we will pay compensation to those who fell in. And I'm the kid who says, maybe plug those holes.

"I read the history of transportation," Roth continues, "and I read that in 1776, an Englishman named Cognot tried to connect a steam engine to a carriage. They put him in an insane asylum."
{Appeared in Haaretz newspaper, 27/6/2000}
The popular Mazda Lantis has engine power that 15 years ago was reserved only for sporty GTI cars. Modern cars are more powerful and faster than ever, but these performances mostly remain on paper. What speed can you reach on a congested road, how fast can you accelerate in a dead-end intersection? The pleasure of driving is reserved for nights on remote roads, and basically remains an unrealized passion.

In the reality of the roads in the center of the country, a car is nothing more than a means of transportation, a means of transportation from home to work and back. Driving is no longer driving, but a routine pressing of pedals and turning a steering wheel in an air-conditioned cellular atmosphere.

And as for driving like a robot, why bother driving at all, why won't someone else do the dirty work and leave us the leisure time to read a newspaper, relax and stop thinking about the non-existent parking. One option is a taxi - too expensive. Another option, a bus - slow, cumbersome, unpleasant. a train? nothing.

A completely different solution, P-RT (Personal Rapid Transit), was used already in the 60s. The PRT is based on automatic cars, each of which takes a small number of passengers exactly to the desired destination. The wagons can travel along one lane or on a road where an electronic device has been installed to ensure that they do not deviate from the track. All the vans will be monitored by a central computer. One has to imagine a network of tracks, physical or electronic, along and across which run automatic carriages carrying one person, two or a family to the desired destination, and then continuing on, to transport other passengers.

The technology has been around for a long time. The costs are not in the sky. According to some studies, RT has many advantages over the train. It is cheaper to build and consumes less land resources, the transportation is personal, almost private and much more flexible. The passengers do not wait for the train - the carriages wait for them.

Several bodies in Western Europe, and especially in the United States, are working to promote the idea. One of the prominent companies, Taxi 2000, was founded at the University of Minnesota in the 80s. Seven years ago, the Taxi 2000 program was acquired by the Raytown company, which is mainly associated with military means, but is also associated with transportation projects. An experimental PRT system has been operating for several years on the campus of West Virginia University.

And the obvious question - if it's so successful, why don't you already see such automatic vans on the streets today? Oded Roth, a lawyer from Tel Aviv, came up with a PRT-like idea himself, after a night of wandering the Internet. "I sat in front of the computer and thought, why not imitate the Internet. On the Internet you send or receive bits of information from computers all over the world. The pieces of information know how to reach you automatically. Why not copy this method for transportation. A car with a computer will be waiting for you and it will take you where you need to go."

Roth discovered that his idea was not original. He contacted researchers in the field, and also Prof. Edward Andersen, president of 2000 Taxi. Roth's conclusion is that FRT is not implemented because people do not want the idea to come true. "People are used to living in a certain way, even if it is a bad way. And apart from that, a lot of economic forces do not want change", says Roth, "the car industry has a strong lobby among the governments of the world, and around it there are huge economic systems of fuel, garages, insurance". Roth quotes Andersen, who wrote: "We're using 19th century technology in 21st century reality, and it just doesn't work."

But PRT also has its shortcomings. One of them is the fact that lines and stations on non-central routes will not pay off economically. However, computing costs have been greatly reduced, and tiny processors will soon be found in every household electrical appliance. And it is also understood that the need to find transportation solutions has sharpened in recent years. The problems of air pollution and traffic accidents have worsened. "The PRT under computer supervision will of course solve the issue of accidents," says Roth, "the current situation reminds me of the wise men, whose city streets have many potholes and people fall into them; Everyone says - we will build fences around the pits, we will appoint policemen, we will pay compensation to those who fell in. And I'm the kid who says, maybe plug those holes.

"I read the history of transportation," Roth continues, "and I read that in 1776, an Englishman named Cognot tried to connect a steam engine to a carriage. They put him in an insane asylum."
{Appeared in Haaretz newspaper, 27/6/2000}

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