Car ownership in China is soaring, with an estimated 20 million new drivers hitting the roads each year. Cities there can expect no shortage of air pollution and hellish traffic jams. While local governments are hoping that parking regulations and plate restrictions will ease congestion, engineers and designers are trying to find relief in technology.
What if there were a city bus that could carry more than a thousand passengers from one point to another without taking up any space on the road?
As fantastical as that sounds, it’s a solution that Chinese cities like Beijing are actually considering. Participants at the 19th International High-Tech Expo in Beijing this weekend watched excitedly as a tiny “straddling bus” gobbled up cars and spit them back out as it glided above the traffic in a model city. It’s a replica of what could be the future of China’s public transport.
The bus would span two traffic lanes and carry up to 1,400 passengers. It would travel up to 40 miles an hour above street level on a special track, allowing regular cars under 7 feet high to freely pass underneath. (As a extra touch, its underbelly even simulates the sky.)
More importantly, it would run on electricity and take the place of 40 buses, which could cut annual fuel consumption by 800 tons and carbon emissions by almost 2,500 tons, according to an interview with the chief engineer, Song Youzhou, conducted by China’s official news agency, Xinhua. And it would be less expensive than a subway system as it doesn’t involve digging up the ground.