Questions & Answers
Do you have any prototype vehicle?
Is an autonomous 2-wheeler technically feasible?
How will 2-wheel PRT work with snow and ice?
Will the existing road network be replaced by 2-wheel PRT?
Isn't it inefficient to build a completely new road network?
Do you propose expropriation for network construction?
Why do you propose something similar to a motorway as ecological - what about landscape and wildlife?
All electric vehicles are ecological, so why is energy efficiency so important?
Why do you propose 80 km/h as the maximum speed?
Why do you propose 2-wheel PRT for rural and suburban areas? Probably there would be more demand in cities or in long-distance travel?
Shall 2-wheel PRT completely replace public transport as it is more energy efficient?
When will 2-wheel PRT be realized?
Will it be possible to buy individual vehicles?
What will be the fares for using 2-wheel PRT?
Shall 2-wheel PRT be profitable or subsidized?
Shall 2-wheel PRT work as a state monopoly without any kind of competition?
Is 2-wheel PRT also suitable for freight?
Is 2-wheel PRT suitable for developing and emerging countries?
- Do you have any prototype vehicle?
No. My contribution is the transportation concept in the meaning of service and network design and cost and eco efficiency, but not the detailed development of a vehicle.
- Is an autonomous 2-wheeler technically feasible?
That's the basic assumption behind the 2-wheel PRT concept, but it seems to be realistic according to the following references:
- Waymo (also known as the "Google-Car") and Tesla Autopilot as well-known pilot applications in the field of autonomous driving (though still far away from completely autonomous operation on any road without a driver)
- The Yamaha Motobot, a humanoid robot able to ride a conventional motorcycle: http://global.yamaha-motor.com/showroom/event/2015tokyomotorshow/sp/exhibitionmodels/mgp/
- The Honda Riding Assist, an assistance system enabling a motorcycle to run driverless at low speed: http://www.honda.com/mobility/riding-assist
- Self-balancing mini-sized electric vehicles like the Segway PT, self-balancing two-wheeled boards or electric unicycles, showing better balancing capabilities than most people
- A rather disappointing story is so far the development of Lit Motors AEV / C1, a self-balancing cabin motorcycle with a production timeline that has been already several times postponed (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lit_Motors#AEV_.2F_C-1). Indeed, concerning balancing, the C1 is rather more complicated as an autonomous vehicle, because it shall be steered by the driver but balanced automatically, so the vehicle has to find some compromise between the steering movements intended by the driver and those required to keep the vehicle upright.
- How will 2-wheel PRT work with snow and ice?
Indeed, 2-wheel PRT needs better snow removal than four-wheel vehicles, but because of the very narrow driveway and the possibility to use automated vehicles for snow cleaning, it is also easier to keep the pavement clear. Probably, pilot applications should be implemented in climate regions without snow and ice.
- Will the existing road network be replaced by 2-wheel PRT?
No, conventional roads will still be needed for heavy freight, emergency services, eventually busses and of course for people who do not like 2-wheel PRT. Just in some cases of unnecessarily wide roads, individual lanes or parts of them could be converted into 2-wheel PRT lines, but in these cases, some barriers will be necessary in order to protect 2-wheel PRT from conventional traffic on the neighboring lane. In town, it is imaginable to create space for 2-wheel PRT by replacement of parking lanes or converting bidirectional roads into onw-way-roads. In a long-term view, maintenance costs for conventional roads could be reduced if they are less used and a lower maintenance level could be accepted.
- Isn't it inefficient to build a completely new road network?
Because of the very low requirements for the 2-wheel PRT routes (0,5 m [1,6 ft] paved lane width, max. 250 kg [551 lb] axle load, 1,7 m [5,5 ft] vehicle height, 80 km/h [50 mph] maximum speed) this seems out of town to be economically feasible - see also the cost estimation
- Do you propose expropriation for network construction?
The situation is similar to other public infrastructure as highways, railways, airports; maybe also pipelines, mining areas etc: the first approach should be consensual purchase of the land needed (including land consolidation in order to achieve good accessibility and reasonable size and shape of land parcels), but if there is no agreement and no possibility to amend the route alignment, expropriation would be applied as an ultima ratio. Anyway, it will never concern buildings, but only agricultural area or wood and it will be by far less area to be purchased, than e.g. for a railway line or a motorway.
- Why do you propose something similar to a motorway as ecological - what about landscape and wildlife?
All negative impacts are by far less than those of a motorway:
It will be subject of further research and development, whether fences along the whole route will be necessary in order to avoid accidents with animals, or if there will be other sufficiently reliable means for to keep animals off the road or to detect them before crossing.
- nearly no noise thanks to electric propulsion and moderate speed
- about 95% less paved surface
- the line can be better fitted to the existing surface topography because of lower speed and inclining vehicles
- low axle load and low vehicle height makes it easier to construct underpasses or overpasses for animals
- All electric vehicles are ecological, so why is energy efficiency so important?
The ecological impact of electric vehicles depends on their specific consumption (kWh/pkm) and the origin of the electricity. Despite existing technologies in the field of renewable energy, the majority of electricity produced in the EU is still coming from nuclear and fossil sources because of high costs for renewable energy (or low willingness to pay), but also because of negative environmental impacts of the renewables themselves, e.g. hydro and wind power stations affecting landscape and habitats. As it is difficult enough to replace fossil and nuclear energy within today's electricity consumption, additional consumption for electric vehicles will most likely be covered by fossil sources. Without a significant increase of energy efficiency in all fields of energy usage, the elimination of fossil and nuclear energy might be feasible technically, but neither economically nor ecologically. Furthermore, less driving resistance means not only less electricity consumption, but also a smaller engine and battery, reducing not only the need of material (particularly rare earth elements), but also costs.
- Why do you propose 80 km/h [50 mph] as the maximum speed?
Some key indicators for energy consumption and safety increase proportionally to the second power of speed (aerodynamic drag, kinetic energy), so higher speed means significantly more resources needed. Steering and suspension becomes more complicated at higher speed too. At the same time, the higher the speed already achieved, the lower are time savings by further speed increase. (Given a distance of 20 km [12 mi]: If you ride at 20 km/h, it takes you one hour. At 40 km/h, riding time is half an hour, you saved 30 minutes. Accelerating further to 60 km/h means 20 minutes riding time, the additional time saving reduces to 10 minutes. 80 km/h saves additional 5 minutes, 100 km/h additional 3 minutes, 120 km/h additional 2 minutes...). On the other hand, the average travel speed of 2-wheel PRT should not be less, than that of conventional rural car traffic. Therefore, 80 km/h [50 mph] has been chosen because it is slightly less, than the speed limit out-of-town in most European countries, but this is compensated by passing around villages instead of crossing them at mostly 50 km/h [31 mph]. Of course, the optimal speed limit could also be 70 km/h [43 mph] or 90 km/h [56 mph], but much less or more is unlikely.
- Why do you propose 2-wheel PRT for rural and suburban areas? Probably there would be more demand in cities or in long-distance travel?
In rural areas with low population density, it is relatively easy to construct a grade-free network without too much effort for underpasses and overpasses and capacity is not critical. Within densely built-up cities, it is not only more difficult to realize a 2-wheel PRT network, it is also less necessary, because there are very efficient and popular public transport solutions, particularly light rail and bus rapid transit. In long-distance travel, railway (particularly high-speed and maybe overnight services) are probably more popular because of shorter travel times and more comfort (more spacious interior, toilet and dining car in the train...). The exact range of application will turn out, when costs, capacity and popularity will be better known, but anyway, the advantages of 2-wheel PRT are most significant in rural and suburban short-distance transportation.
- Shall 2-wheel PRT completely replace public transport as it is more energy efficient?
2-wheel PRT should definitely replace those kinds of public transport with poor service quality and poor occupancy: Buses and low-speed trains with frequent stops, particularly in off-peak hours. Rural public transport will probably remain for highly concentrated demand (peak-hours and suburban main routes), where high occupancy leads to high energy efficiency and relief of the 2-wheel PRT system in terms of the required number of vehicles and the road capacity. Urban public transport and long-distance resp. high-speed rail will remain because of higher capacity or popularity than 2-wheel PRT and anyway less energy consumption than conventional car or airplane.
- When will 2-wheel PRT be realized?
I assume, that engineering and detailed system development could take about 1-3 years and planning and construction of networks about 2-5 years, so first applications could appear in the first half of the 2020s.
- Will it be possible to buy individual vehicles?
Individual vehicle ownership is responsible for many of the disadvantages of individual traffic: Poor per-day-mileage of the individual vehicles, poor average occupation rate (5 seats, but mostly only 1 occupied), high demand of parking area. The key advantages of 2-wheel PRT can be fully achieved only with the sharing system, so individually owned vehicles are generally no option. Exceptions are imaginable for special commercial purposes (company fleets).
- What will be the fares for using 2-wheel PRT?
Significantly lower than the costs of a ride with an own car (including amortization), high enough to generate appropriate revenue for the system and efficiency oriented (peak pricing: usage which increases the overall vehicle demand will be more expensive, than trips in off-peak-periods. According to the cost estimation, competitive fares are basically realistic, but the variation is still to large for more detailed statements.
- Shall 2-wheel PRT be profitable or subsidized?
Costs should desirably be fully covered by revenues from users, but in any case subsidies shall be not higher, than those for the public transport services replaced by 2-wheel PRT
- Shall 2-wheel PRT work as a state monopoly without any kind of competition?
Some elements of 2-wheel PRT have characteristics of a natural monopoly: it would be ineffective to establish several parallel lanes for different operators and probably it would be better for users if they can take just the next available vehicle and not only one of the right company. Anyway if all dimensions and interfaces are properly defined by an authority, vehicles can not only be manufactured, but also operated by different suppliers. Even if users can not choose between competing operators, the public authority responsible for the system can tender the operation of a network as a whole or individual parts as e.g. delivery of vehicles, system operation, vehicle maintenance or network construction.
- Is 2-wheel PRT also suitable for freight?
2-wheel PRT might also be suitable for some light freight transport, particularly parcel services. Everything requiring higher axle load has to by moved by conventional trucks on conventional roads, or by freight trains which could make use of free track capacities after replacement of short-distance passenger services.
- Is 2-wheel PRT suitable for developing and emerging countries?
I could imagine, that 2-wheel PRT has particular advantages in countries with poorly developed conventional transport infrastructure. Anyway, the point of origin of the 2-wheel PRT concept are the framing conditions of central Europe and there had been already enough "good ideas" for developing countries, originating from Europe or North America, which actually did not meet the needs of the people there. So the focus in further development should rather remain in developed countries, but of course, any interest from other parts of the world is welcome.