Like many other regions of the world, Brazil has a transport congestion problem. Once seen as a city issue, traffic jams have spread to smaller and smaller towns. The designers of the OU concept propose a possible solution where existing roadways have rails installed and drivers of specially kitted-out vehicles can join road trains to flow through otherwise congested areas at a constant pace. The electric OU vehicle's wheels would operate in either an open configuration – for normal driving – or closed, for rail travel.

The OU concept is another example from the pool of 34 designs chosen by judges from the Michelin Challenge Design to be shown at the recent North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

It was conceived by a collection of designers who have been working together since 2008, and formed the 2:1 - Industrial Design company in April 2009. Noting that motorcycle sales in Brazil have been steadily increasing in recent years, reflecting a need for flexible travel options, the team decided to attack the problem of city traffic congestion by using existing transport infrastructures.

The OU concept ("OU" means "or" in Portuguese) proposes installing rails along existing roadways in areas where traffic jams regularly spring up. The electric OU vehicle would have a wheel configuration that could be changed between closed-wheel drive for driving on the track and open-wheel for everywhere else. The driver could then choose to join a railed traffic flow system, where the vehicles would move smoothly through city streets like giant shoals of fish, or to drive independently.

Such a vehicle could be bought whole or rented, but the designers also see the wheel structure being made available for installation on existing vehicles. Unlike the SARTRE road train model, the driver would retain control of the vehicle at all times, although the necessary activation of a SYNC mode would control such things as vehicle spacing and speed while moving along the rails.

As an added bonus to the driver, the vehicle's batteries could receive charge while traveling along the rail. The designers also suggest the development of new tire technology which would use a nano-material to adapt to different driving conditions – providing more grip and less friction in dry weather and increasing tread during wet conditions.

So what do you think? Just another well-intentioned bogus idea, or a workable solution to ease traffic congestion problems the world over? Let us know via the comments.

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