Category Archives: Transportation

China’s ‘Straddling Bus’ is Stranger Than Fiction



TEB graphicFrom an American perspective, China can look like a very strange place. While the Asian country has absorbed many Western traits into its culture, China is still different in many ways. I experienced this recently when I came across news of a new public transit vehicle being tested in China. The vehicle’s technically known as the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) and it’s colloquially referred to as the “Straddling Bus,” due to the way it straddles the roads it moves over.

The TEB looks like a quasi-futuristic people mover that actually travels above the road on elevated walls that glide along a predefined track. In reality, the “Straddling Bus” isn’t really a bus at all. It’s more like a train. Whatever you call it, busses and trains aren’t likely to elicit that much excitement in 2016. But the TEB’s appeal comes from the way it moves over traffic, allowing cars to pass underneath. In the right setting, a TEB could be an extremely practical public transit solution, requiring less space (and in turn expense) than subways or elevated railways.

The company that designed and built the first TEB prototype actually took the vehicle out for a short test drive on a public street in Qinhuangdao. The event was attended by a decent-sized crowd, some of whom even got to ride aboard the vehicle.

But over the next few days, reports began to surface that the TEB and the company behind it were nothing more than a scam:

…Several state media outlets have published articles alleging that the company in charge of developing the TEB crowdfunded their project illegally and misled investors.
Despite the hype surrounding the trial run, both domestic and abroad, it seems that the company may have blown the occassion out of proportion. Not only was the test run just 300 meters long and completely failed to mimic real-life traffic conditions, but authorities in Qinhuangdao city also were not aware of it even happening, People’s Daily reports. The firm later verified that it wasn’t a “road test,” but simply part of “internal testing.”

It looks like the Straddling Bus has gone as quickly as it arrived. Perhaps another enterprising transit company will pick up where the first TEB left off. Anything’s possible in China.

 


Stebles Carbon-Fibre Bike at Gadget Show Live



Stebles LogoContinuing GNC’s coverage of the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I met Mark of Stebles Bikes and his interesting road bicycle with carbon-fibre mudguards integrated into the bike frame. Mark tells me more about his new design and the problem it’s trying to solve.

As an enthusiastic cyclist himself, the thinking behind Mark’s idea was “more riding, less cleaning”. Often keen riders have two bikes, one with mudguards for rainy days and one without for better weather. Obviously it’s expensive to have two good bikes, so why not have one bike with streamlined, lightweight mudguards?

Stebles Bike

Mark used 3D printing to create the initial prototypes and the next stage is to produce the necessary aluminium molds for the frame parts. It’s an expensive business so Mark has a GoFundMe campaign if you want to support him and get the project to the next stage.

Looking to the future, a British-made version of the bike is likely to cost around GB£5,000 but Mark aims to get this cost down to make the bike affordable to wider range of riders.


BikeDeck Stores and Transports Bicycles for Modern Living at Gadget Show Live



BikeDeck LogoToday’s apartments and smaller houses aren’t always conducive to bicycle ownership. Bikes don’t stay upright, handlebars mark walls and transporting them can be awkward. They’re all wheels and finger-nips. Mark and Julie’s BikeDeck looks to solve these problems and I chat with him as part of the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live.

The BikeDeck is a free-standing bicycle storage and transport platform. It holds the bike in a upright, free-standing position or the BikeDeck can be hung on a wall (from a suitably strong hook). BikeDeck keeps the bike ready for transport as it can be wheeled it along like a trolley suitcase or lifted easily into a car.

It works with any bike which has quick release wheels, and with practice, an owner can get the bike onto the BikeDeck in around a minute. Almost any frame size can be accommodated as the BikeDeck’s sliding system adjusts to length.

BikeDeck

Currently in the prototype stage, BikeDeck is looking for partners to bring the product to the market.


British Inventors Project Awards at Gadget Show Live



British Inventors ProjectOne of the best bits of Gadget Show Live is the support for the British Inventors’ Project. Designed to showcase the best of British invention and innovation, the Project sets aside part of the GSL for the inventors to demonstrate their products. It’s always interesting to see what’s on show, with some inventions little more than sketches on the back of an envelope, to final products looking for trade buyers and distributors.

British Invention of the Year 2016There’s an award for the British Invention of the Year and last year the winner was the OmniO Rider, a backpack buggy. You can here my interview from last year’s show here and it was good see that this invention has gone on to full production.

In 2016, the British Invention of the Year award went to eFOLDi, an electric scooter that folds up into both a chair and a suitcase. The pictures show it both folded and unfolded, and the eFOLDi easily morphs between wheeled vehicle and suitcase. If you are interested, the eFOLDi is pre-ordering on Kickstarter for GB£699 (while pledge levels remain). The videos on Kickstarter show more detail on folding and unfolding the scooter. The project is a short of its £90,000 goal with a little over a third raised and 25 days to go. Good luck.

Regrettably, I didn’t get to interview the eFOLDi team, but I was able to record the award ceremony, which was hosted by Hosted by David McClelland and Jason Bradbury. The audio isn’t great – I was standing at the back!

eFOLDi

Over the next few posts, I’ll be covering the great inventions of the British Inventors’ Project 2016. There’s some fantastic stuff to come.


Cobra Dash Cams and Detectors at CES



Cobra LogoCobra Electronics are well-known for their radar detectors and other automotive products. Here at CES, Cobra won the TWICE Picks Award for one of its flagship units, the CDR 855 BT Drive HD dash cam, so Todd Aune finds out more about the latest devices from Mark Karnes, VP of Marketing at Cobra.

On the table are two relatively new devices from Cobra, the CDR 855BT dash cam and the world’s smallest DSP radar detector, the DSP 9200 BT. Starting with the dash cam, it’s a connected device, pairing via Bluetooth with a smartphone to acquire GPS co-ordinates which are then sync’d with the video footage. On top of this, the dash cam can work with Cobra’s iRadar app on the smartphone to know the location of cameras and provide alerts to the driver. The app is shared with the radar detector, so as the detector finds cameras, these can be reported back to the app and then up to the cloud to keep the camera database up-to-date for everyone through the iRadar Community. That’s pretty neat.

Not to be outdone, the radar detector was a CTA Honoree Award for an Intelligent Vehicle Device. The trick in this radar detector is to use digital signal processing to tell the difference between signals from the new collision avoidance systems and law enforcement speed guns. A range of radar and laser signals are presented to the driver as detected, with both visual and audio warnings, and the unit also benefits from alerts provided from the iRadar app on a connected smartphone.

Both devices are on sale now for US$349 for the radar detection and US$149 for the dash cam.

Todd Aune bridges the technology gap with the The Elder Divide.

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Hudway Glass at CES 2016



maxresdefaultIt can be tempting to glance at your cell phone or check the time while driving, but we all know it’s critical to keep your eyes on the road. Hudway aims to solve this problem with the Hudway Glass.

The Hudway Glass is a new driving accessory that turns your smartphone into an unobstructive display that lets you view real-time direchudway_logo_45124tions, road curvature, speed, and other important information without taking your eyes off the road. The Hudway Glass attaches to the dashboard of your car using one of two mounting options– a compact 5mm mount for everyday usage or a 30-degree tilting mount.

The multi-layered glass display is specially designed to prevent glare, image doubling, or poor image size or quality, so you’ll be able to clearly view the information without any dangerous distractions.

The Hudway Glass costs $49 and is available for preorder now here. Be sure to visit the Hudway folks at CES in Hall G, booth 80752 at the Eureka Park Marketplace.


Aérotrain



aerotr1Last week I was on  holiday in France. Driving down from Paris to Orléans on the D2020, I noticed a long raised structure to the east running for several kilometres. It was a few hundred metres from the road so all I could see was a raised platform or aquaduct on stilts. I initially assumed that it was related to the energy industry because the structure passed near a nuclear power station. I thought nothing more about it for a few days and then used Google Maps and Street View to find out that this was an actually the industrial remnants of a high speed transportation experiment called Aérotrain from the 60s and 70s which achieved speeds of over 400 km/h (about 250 mph).

I80_HV_1Generically known as a hovertrain, the Aérotrain used a cushion of air to reduce the rolling resistance of the vehicle, in a similar way to maglevs. Aero engines were used from propulsion, initially with propellors, then turbojets and finally turbofans. A prototype using a linear induction motor was also tested.

The futuristic vehicle on the left is the I-80 HV and is shown on the track that I passed between Ruan and Saran. Able to carry 80 passengers, the I-80 HV established the world speed record for overland air cushion vehicles on 5 March 1974 with an average speed of 418 km/h (259 mph) and a top speed of 430 km/h (267 mph).

This was the brainchild of French engineer Jean Bertin who initially proposed the concept and demonstrated a scale prototype in 1963. Subsequently there were four prototypes built for France and one for the USA which ran on a test track in Pueblo, Colorado.

It’s totally fascinating and there are some comprehensive information resources online including the Association of Friends of Jean Bertin (in French) and Aerotrain.fr (French and English). There are some videos on-line too which show how amazingly futuristic the Aérotrain must have seemed in the 60s. The one below is nearly 20 minutes long. There’s a couple of videos on YouTube too – search for aerotrain.

For a quick 3 minute fix, French pop group Exsonvaldes released a music track with a video about the Aérotrain. There’s brief sequence of the I-80 HV keeping pace with a light aircraft.

State support for the Aérotrain ceased in 1974 and France pushed forward with the TGV for high speed rail transportation. The key benefit of the TGV was that the trains could run on standard rail tracks in urban areas before switching to dedicated high-speed lines in the countryside. Aérotrain needed a completely new infrastructure and the last flight of Aérotrain took place on 29 December 1977.

For comparison, here’s a BBC top five fastest trains. There’s some learning here for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop system.