Gizmag first reported on the JPods system back in 2012 when the concept was in its infancy. Now plans are afoot to build and test the solar-powered, suspended, individual carriage rail system in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Created as an alternative network to help alleviate pressure on existing mass systems, JPods is designed to be suspended above existing infrastructure.
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As urban congestion from cars and buses chokes our major cities, many options to mitigate these problems and – as a useful adjunct – break our dependence on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, have surfaced. Most of these envisage taking the problem up above the gridlock next to, and over the top of, buildings. The high-speed gondola concept proposed for New York City is one recent example.
As innovative as some of these schemes may be, they all continue to follow a set pattern of mass transit, where the network of vehicles contained in the system move together, all stop at the same time, and are generally only at their most efficient when moving people en masse.
Not so the JPods concept. Instead of having large, connected train carriages, JPods are individual units large enough to carry just a few people. Unlike a standard rail system, each of these pods is individually controlled and can be sent to various parts of the network independent of the other JPods. Using a bespoke software system designed to track, move, prioritize, and direct the JPods means that delays are minimized as there are no timed stops or large numbers of carriages moved about as a single unit to impede progress.
Suspended below a solar-powered dual line carriageway, the JPods system is designed to be built right over the top of existing infrastructure, complementing existing public transport infrastructure and providing an alternative service to cars, buses, trains, and taxis.
Controlled via an interactive touch screen, the JPods all have their destination individually selected by the people riding in them, with the added benefit that the passengers do not have to do any of the driving or planning for the trip; the software handles it all.
As reported previously in Gizmag, Bill James – the inventor and promoter of the JPods concept – looked to start with small construction demonstrations of the system at shopping malls, universities, theme parks, airports and the like, to prove the technology with the hope that larger installations would follow. In this vein, Gizmag asked James what progress has been made since then in building a full-scale prototype, particularly in light of the latest announcement regarding Secaucus.
"In a couple of weeks we will have a small ridable network," said James. "We have 100 meters (328 ft) of truss being shipped soon. This will be used to set two parallel rails for vehicles to travel on. This is a Rescue-Rail system designed for temporary use over broken heavy infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake."
Following this initial demonstration, the company plans to build a 300 meter (984 ft) network of commercial grade rails dubbed "Kitty Hawk." This will be used to further test the software used on the network, and to establish a consistent base of understanding on how to design, train and build networks for other communities and groups interested in learning how to build and program their own interactive transport network. It will also, according to James, take paying passengers for the very first time.
We asked James if the Secaucus town council has an outcome that it wants to see and approve before extending the system. "The Town of Secaucus passed a law establishing 'Performance Standards' that grant rights of way based on exceeding 120 passenger-miles per gallon and being safer than existing modes," he says. "Those are both easily exceeded requirements (using the JPod system)."
It is not yet clear as to the size and capacity of the solar capture and storage network used to power the system, and any back-up or uninterruptible power supplies that may be attached to it.
All going to plan, the initial Rescue Rail JPod system should be up and running in very late September or early October. No announcements have been made as to when the Kitty Hawk extended version will be rolled out.
The video below shows an animation of the JPods.