This elevated taxi system promises to do Noida-Gurgaon in half an hour

NAVADHA PANDEY DEBABRATA DAS New Delhi | Updated on February 25, 2015 Published on February 25, 2015

SkyTran graphical reprsentation.jpg

Jerry Sanders

NASA partner SkyTran wants to build two pilot projects in India to prove tech

With increasing urban congestion, travelling to work has become a hassle in cities. But what if you could escape the road traffic and whiz to work in an elevated driverless pod? Sounds futuristic?

SkyTran, a  NASA partner based in California, aims to make urban mobility smoother through a network of elevated guideways in the sky. This automated rapid transit system consists of lightweight, two-person vehicles suspended from magnetic levitation tracks. Passengers can hop into a pod and dial the number of a station they want to go to.

Lightweight structure

The vehicles are made of composites of carbon fibre, while aluminium is used for the point of contact between the structure and the pod.

Says Jerry Sanders, CEO and Chairman, SkyTran: “Our lives have changed in medicine, technology etc. But in transportation, we are moving slower today than we did in 1950 because of excessive road traffic.”

Interestingly, a few years ago, the company was in talks with Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, for a pilot 5-km stretch in Ahmedabad, which did not work out. Today SkyTran is in advanced stages of talks with the Bihar and Kerala Governments for projects.

“We have been in talks with transportation authorities in Kerala since two years and expect to get moving very soon. In Bihar, the Government is working on the Buddha circuit and we may look at a project there. But there may be some delay due to the upcoming elections,” he told BusinessLine.

Globally, it is working on projects in Israel and France. “The first phase of the Tel Aviv project will be up and running within 6-8 months. The Israeli Government is financing it and we have support from the aerospace company there for building the vehicles. Apart from this, a demonstration project is coming up at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris,” said Sanders.

The success of the Tel Aviv project will help the company convince political leaders to test this form of transport.

But how does the company expect to be successful in India? Says Ankur Bhatnagar, Vice-President, SkyTran India: “We expect India to be one of our biggest markets as it faces acute transport problems.” The company is looking to partner with local companies that can invest and expand the market here.

Cheaper option

Bhatnagar believes SkyTran scores over any other means of transport. “It is super-fast, on demand, energy efficient and doesn’t have any stops in between. Compare it with Delhi Metro, 190 km built at a cost of ₹40,000 crore. SkyTran can, with half of that money, build a 500 km network across Delhi NCR and one can travel between extreme ends in just half an hour. The cost is ₹6-8 per pod, per kilometre.”

The infrastructure consists of metallic modular structures produced in factories and assembled at the site. A line can be rolled out within a couple of weeks, he added.

The biggest challenge for the company is the lack of political will. “It’s very difficult for new technology to break in as politicians get money from companies to keep the status quo,” said Sanders.

Published on February 25, 2015
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