The past year has highlighted three main trends in the transport sector – artificial intelligence, electric cars, and hyperloop high-speed transport. This trio has been formed not by chance: in many ways, the media attention was focused on these subjects because Elon Musk, the main technological celebrity of our time, had a hand in the developments of all three trends.
However, many interesting ideas remained undeservedly in the shadow and they are preparing to compete for a place in the market of new transport. At this time, when Musk’s projects mostly do not go beyond a visionary presentation and sale of baseball caps, the “dark horses” are really working to create sustainable technologies and viable business-models.
One such project is SkyWay Technologies.* And, unlike any consumer-focused hyperloop projects, the company has already passed the first stages of certification.
What is SkyWay?
SkyWay is created with a view to address the most pressing transportation problems. The modern world is closing in, and many people now have to travel more than 100 kilometers several times a day. If a complicated and expensive hyperloop system is suitable mostly for overcoming large distances, SkyWay can be used both on a short distance with frequent stops and on long distances. Avoiding traffic jams, the option for high-speed urban transport will relieve complex transport hubs of big cities.
People have already come to such a decision in Mexico City, where a few years ago the Mexicable system was launched. It is lagging behind SkyWay in terms of speed and performance, but it is demonstrating viability and demand for transport options located above the ground surface.
SkyWay transport is an integral independent transport system, based on a track structure of supports and pre-stressed rails powered with electricity. SkyWay developers propose to raise the main traffic flow above the land and, following the latest technological trends, to render control to intelligent systems. This prevents complicated technical and even ethical problems facing autonomous driving in a conventional car.
The technologies applied in the creation of the track structure distinguish it from existing solutions such as a monorail or a cableway. A composite structure with pre-stressed steel ropes and special concrete inside allows the rails of SkyWay track structure to hold heavy loads. Because of this design, the speed of rolling stock increases, while construction costs are reduced. The space inside the rail can accommodate communication lines ― the company expects that the infrastructure’s potential will eventually grow towards greater use of information technologies.
SkyWay routes are lightweight and occupy small land plots, which means there is great potential for densely populated or large cities, where every piece of land is owned by someone and is costly. Stopping points can be located in supports or buildings. Intelligent controls and a system of personalized modules will make SkyWay transport very comfortable, almost like a taxi.
Despite the higher maximum speed, a hyperloop is inferior to SkyWay at short distances ― from urban to intercity transportation. This is caused due to the airlocking process needed to move in vacuum and what would be a short section of movement at maximum speed.
How Does SkyWay Technology Compete?
One of the main advantages of SkyWay is its cost. SkyWay technology allows one to build an innovative transport infrastructure at a price comparable to the cost of building a conventional railway. At the same time, SkyWay routes are much better suited for harsh terrain and can be used both in a city and for long-distance transportation. In addition, the transport infrastructure of this type can create a serious additional benefit for a city, where it will be located – shops and public places can be arranged in anchor supports of the tracks, and communication lines can be laid inside the string rails. SkyWay is a Swiss army knife in the world of transport technologies.
To realize the SkyWay project, it is necessary to create new infrastructure, which exists now only at the test site near Minsk (previously SkyWay transport was tested in Moscow). While the tax burden of new infrastructure of this sort might be off-putting for some residents, SkyWay developers are confident that the benefits of this system will far outshadow the tax and time burden of a project.
And finally, the most important fact ― while hyperloop is still at the stage of early testing, SkyWay is not only running full-scale tests of the first three prototypes, but it has also received official confirmations of success from government agencies.
In Russia, which is one of the more promising markets for the company, SkyWay has already received certificates confirming the technical features of its rolling stock and its components for two models ― unibus U4-201 and unibike U4-621. At the end of 2017, the project designing organization signed an agreement on comprehensive cooperation with the Russian University of transport (MIIT). The latter issued a positive conclusion on the results of the work [note, this page is in Russian].
Hyperloop’s strength lies largely in the fact that a community of interested researchers has appeared around this system, and their efforts can ultimately lead the project to realization. A tough commercial transport war cannot be excluded in some instances, but we want to believe that a balanced solution will be found to unite the modes of transport and their complementary advantages will work for the benefit of our global cities.
*This post has been published with support from SkyWay Technologies