Sunday, September 14, 2008

Automated Bus Steers Itself

The self-steering bus developed by California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways follows magnetic strips embedded in the road, although drivers still handle acceleration and braking and can take full control of the bus at any time.

During the demo, the coach traveled in a perfectly straight line before pulling into a bus stop and stopping one centimeter from the curb.

Magnetic guidance technology uses magnetic markers embedded every 1.2 meters (4 feet) down the center of the lane and onboard sensors to track them. Alternating the polarity of the magnets creates a code that a computer aboard the bus reads to determine the buses' latitudinal and longitudinal position. A bus doing 60 mph can process data from 88 feet of roadway in less than one second, and the system is robust enough to withstand real-world abuse, says Wei-Bin Zhang, who leads the project.

The precision demonstrated by the recent test would shave seconds off the time needed to load and unload passengers at a bus, allowing buses to run routes with greater reliability and punctuality. Precise control also could allow bus lanes to be narrowed from 12 feet (the current standard) to 10.

The technology's also relatively cheap. A bus rapid transit system proposed by AC Transit would cost about $273 million, but adding magnetic guidance technology to make it behave more like light rail adds only $5 million. The Valley Transportation Agency, which serves the region around San Jose, California, also has taken a look at the system and determined it would cost $128 million compared to $393 million for light rail.
Cool. I am a big fan of buses over light rail because of their greater flexibility and lower costs to implement. I am especially impressed with Curitiba's system. Adding self-steering systems that will allow buses to go faster sounds good to me, and also a good way to speed up the day when self driving cars are available.

via Wired

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