The first working prototype of a ‘straddling bus’ able to drive over traffic has been shown off to the public in China.
The prototype, also known as a Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), was built in Qinhuangdao in northern China’s Hebei Province.
Prior to this, the TEB, which was first conceptualized in 2010, had only existed as a computer rendering and a small, sub-scale model.
Currently this first prototype – called the TEB-1 – is undergoing road trials on a special 300m test track in order to see how it performs in different kinds of traffic.
As well, ‘Tebtech’, one of the companies involved in the construction of the vehicle, is also testing the TEB’s braking system, drag and power consumption according to reporting by Xinhua News Agency.
The TEB runs on rails that are positioned on either side of a two lane road. The vehicle itself is elevated 2m above this road and a cabin stretches across both lanes.
In terms of size, the passenger compartment of the TEB-1 is 22m long, 7.8m wide and can carry up to 300 passengers. Original designs called for up to 4 TEB vehicles being chained together, however it is currently unclear if the TEB-1 prototype has retained this ability.
Reportedly the vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 60km/h, however this has yet to be demonstrated.
World’s first transit elevated bus, TEB-1 on its launching test Tuesday in Qinhuangdao, N China’s Hebei pic.twitter.com/yMepYWD1kD
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 2, 2016
A viable mode of transport?
While the very fact that the TEB was actually built shows that there is considerable interest in the technology, serious questions remain over its viability.
Primarily, there is has to be any real information regarding how the vehicle will deal with many road common obstacles, including underpasses, tunnels and construction sites. Furthermore, at its current height, larger vehicles like trucks would not be able to pass underneath the TEB.
As well, unlike normal busses, the TEB can only operate on large and relatively straight two-lane roads, making it unsuitable for inner city areas.
Infrastructure development costs, while cheaper than subways or rail, would also still be significant when compared to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
Nonetheless, the TEB system, once optimized could still provide an efficient (if niche) mode of public transport in congested urban areas.