WHSSSH - A Trustworthy 150 mph Automated Highway System
It was with a great deal of pleasure that I stumbled across the
site. This subject has been a personal area of focus for some 30 or so years
and I am eager to contribute and to share ideas. I feel I have a lot to
contribute, so, for those who might be interested, I plan to cover three
1. My WHSSSH Concept and its background
2. A summary of my personal background in dual-mode, so you know who I am and
where I'm coming from
3. Thoughts on getting a national dual-mode/AHS program moving (not yet available)
PART 1 - THE WHSSSH CONCEPT
The WHSSSH concept is based upon ideas embodied in a funded concept study
that I completed for the National Automated Highway System Consortium, based
on ideas I had evolved over the course of several decades of work in advanced
transportation system R&D. This study, entitled "Packet Autopiloted Cruiseway
- Intelligent Transportation System (PAC-ITS)" was completed and delivered to
the NAHSC on July 11, 1996. A follow-up SAE paper entitled "PAC-ITS: Towards
AHS and 150 mph Highways", SAE paper # 970451, was presented at an SAE
conference in Detroit in February 1997. By the way, since my concept was at
odds with the NAHSC's pre-conceived notions of AHS, it was quickly buried,
without even a token show at analyzing the ideas contained within - the "not invented here"
syndrome at work.
My Personal Belief: The deployment of high-speed intercity and inter-country
highway system networks, enabling personal and commercial transportation at
speeds of 150 mph or so, and incorporating environmentally friendly vehicles
with electronic assists and hands-off driving ease, will revolutionize world
travel, life styles, goods movement and land use development and come to
fruition in the first half of our new century.
Long distance travel services within the United States are rapidly
deteriorating. The once glorious promise of Interstate travel ("Smooth
ribbons of concrete ---") has given way to the frustrations of ubiquitous
congestion; endless potholes; the detours of continuous road rebuilding; the
fears of "killer trucks" - and road rage. The promising smoothness and speed
of the jet airplane has been overwhelmed by the pandemonium and frustrations
of congested parking, congested terminals, filled airplanes with squeezed
seating, flight delays, lost luggage, lengthy connections through large hubs
- and air rage. And train travel, despite the development of higher speed
trains, remains a low demand, non-competitive transportation option for the
overwhelming majority of travelers. WHSSSH provides a vision for another
option - a far better type of ground based transportation service - driven by
new user possibilities and based on advanced technology's promise, with
profound implications for the future.
What if, in contrast to the frustrations of the "big three" existing modes:
You could travel on a new highway (guideway) at 150 mph - with
safety than on the Interstate system - in your own personal vehicle, leaving
when you wanted, taking what you wanted, traveling with whom you wanted and
having your own vehicle when you arrived at your destination?
You had freedom from the chores of driving while on this highway -
visual alertness, steering, accelerating or braking required - allowing you
to sleep, communicate, work, watch television, read or play with the kids?
Your auto, at this high speed, was more energy efficient than your
auto at 75 mph and more efficient than airline jets, significantly reducing
emissions and greenhouse gases?
The automated highway network available to you covered 25,000
more, supplementing the current Interstate system, giving you a wide range of
travel destination possibilities?
You could get to destinations up to 750 miles away as fast as
an airline, but without the delays, hassles, luggage restrictions, lack of
privacy and cramped seats?
Your travel time was predictable, without detours, construction
Your auto-based long distance trip was more like traveling in the
of an executive jet, with a somewhat lower average speed, but also at a
substantially lower cost?
You could live in a "string of pearls" linear city,
choosing any of many
smaller cities distributed along its length, with a far nicer environment
than current sprawling mega-cities?
You could become a happy long distance telecommuter, living beyond
city hassles, a hundred miles or more from the office and riding an automated
highway to work just once or twice a week?
You could have a second home 300, to 600 miles (two to four hours)
routinely travel there on weekends, arriving, well rested, in your auto,
following a relaxing after work "drive"?
Truck productivity could be improved by a factor of ten times or
one driver commanding a string of ten or twenty trailers - at a 150-mph speed?
Truck drivers in the future became transportation pilots, ensuring
safety and security while you relaxed en route to your destination?
A new type of transportation industry was borne, having a true
delivering a wide variety of price and service options for your
WHSSSH type travel was realized in many locations throughout the
allowing ease of use in land travel to foreign destinations?
What is WHSSSH?
The WHSSSH acronym stands for: World High-Speed, Safety and Sustainability -
W for World - The unique capabilities of such a system are expected
worldwide intercity and inter-country applications and impacts.
H-S for High-Speed - Our highways need a new level of speed to
extend their functionality and productivity. It's time to make a 150-mph
speed a practicable achievement. Trains and airplanes continue to extend
their operational speeds. Only highway systems, are left behind, mired in the
political defined limit of 75 mph. Increasing congestion, in fact, is slowly
and surely reducing the usefulness of even that limit.
H-S for High-Safety - The inherent safety of the U.S. Interstate
improved every year of its existence but now appears to be plateauing. The
WHSSSH approach can, and must, greatly increase safety well beyond the
Interstate level, despite the doubling of speed.
H-S for High-Sustainability - The WHSSSH approach is intended to
level of sustainability beyond the Interstate, encompassing significant
improvements in fuel economy, emissions and global warming related energy
reduction despite the higher speed.
H for Highway based - The term highway implies ubiquity,
continuing usability by a wide variety of vehicles and users - personal
vehicles, commercial passenger vehicles, and goods movement vehicles, as well
as drivers/passengers of all ages and skill levels.
WHSSSH Concept Features
The WHSSSH network consists of some 25,000 miles or so of automated
All vehicles are mechanically linked into unit trains of 20 or so
while on the guideway
A piloted vehicle leads each unit train. This lead vehicle contains
sensors and automatic longitudinal controls for the unit train; electronic
throttle and brake links to all vehicles for speed control/adjustment; system
communication links; monitoring electronics to track the status of all
vehicles; and, potentially, a fuel cell power plant to also enable the
distribution of electric power to all vehicles.
All unit trains operate at a nominal constant speed of 150 mph.
Each vehicle within the unit train contains the necessary automated
controls for lateral guidance to constrain all to tracking the same precise
All vehicles are electrically powered while operating on the guideway
A trained professional pilot, analogous to the pilot of an
controls each unit train from the special lead vehicle,
Each unit train travels within a reserved time slot on the guideway
Unit trains are formed up off the guideway and accelerate as a unit
the guideway; likewise are separated after leaving the guideway
WHSSSH Concept Rationale
1. Why unit trains?
To achieve highest guideway capacity without incurring the safety
liability concerns of short headway operations.
To accommodate individual vehicle failure possibilities - if any
vehicle should, for example, lose power, the power of the remaining vehicles
can be increased and the failed vehicle towed along.
To maximize aerodynamic benefits, including the future possibility
flexible "shrouds" acting as aerodynamic fairings between vehicles
To simplify the macro control problem, while reducing the capital
individual vehicles, and of the overall system
To greatly enhance commercial vehicle productivity; one pilot
as many as 20 vehicles
To eliminate the need for any potential user emergency involvement
To provide great traction from a 4x20 set of powered wheels
2. Why Pilots?
Any automated highway must pass "the sleep test" -
passengers must trust it
to take them safely to their destination, while they are sleeping, despite
any potential system failures, vehicle failures, guideway debris, weather
changes, etc. We are conditioned to only a trained, professional pilot
providing us with this assurance.
History as shown us that it is virtually impossible - in trains,
spacecraft, etc., to design the perfect, failure proof, automatic system.
A trained pilot can monitor the status of 20 vehicles, macro system
operations, weather and potential passenger personal situations and apply
instant human judgment to any emerging problems.
The use of pilots provides new and better career paths for
vehicle drivers as pilots of combined unit trains of private and commercial
3. Why an Intercity/Interstate, rather than an intra-urban, focus?
It will forever be physically, economically and politically
adapt urban areas to new automated guideway systems; and the potential
service gains are, at best, trivial
It is far better and easier to deploy an intercity automated
and let our cities and land use adapt to transportation change - as has
always happened historically
4. Why 150 mph?
Because doubling peak highway speed doubles travel range in the
period, providing much better service, which becomes time competitive with
many airline trips and far exceeds "mass" airline service levels.
Because the higher speed affords new opportunities for enhancing
and lifestyles (for example, the possibility of replacing amorphous sprawling
cities with much more desirable linear, or "string of pearls" cities).
5. Why "hands off"?
Not only hands-off, but feet-off and eyes-off. Drivers become
with freedom of activities - family, personal or business.
This is the only possible safe way of ever achieving 150-mph
available to everybody. Not everyone has the skill level required to manual
drive at 150 mph.
6. Why rubber tired vehicles?
To achieve true dual-mode operations using vehicles which are
operational on highways and city streets.
To take advantage of the evolution of automobiles, trucks and buses
has happened and will continue to happen.
To avoid the cost and visual intrusion penalties of elevated
WHSSSH Operations Description
Assume that you and your family are leaving on a trip using the WHSSSH
guideway network. You may have chosen to own, rent or lease the vehicle you
are traveling in. You choose to travel at a time dictated by demand pricing,
departing, for example, late in the evening when demand and prices are low,
knowing that you all can safely and securely sleep en route. The process is
Drive to the WHSSSH guideway entrance where some dozen or so
are available, each with a particular travel destination marked. (Memo: this
in itself is a highly complex operations problem deserving of much study).
Your vehicle enters the entrance slot corresponding to your planned
destination and is vehicle number 8 in the slot which can accommodate up to
20 vehicles. Vehicle number one, of course, is the pilot vehicle. Vehicles 2
through 5 are cargo vehicles. Vehicle 6 is a business "bus" (limo?), carrying
10 passengers in private jet type comfort. The remaining vehicles are
also private in a variety of sizes and accommodations.
Switching on your car's low-speed docking control, your vehicle
automatically approaches and mechanically links up with the vehicle ahead. A
series of indicators show that the maneuver is successful and that all of
your vehicle pre-trip checks have been completed okay. Of course a display
also shows the price of your trip.
Your job is done. You sit back and relax. Within a reasonable time,
minutes, the unit train accelerates up to its 150-mph speed and enters the
guideway. In about four hours you and your family will be at grandma's, well
over five hundred miles away.
While you're travelling, displays show you readouts of speed,
ETA, weather en route, etc. You can even watch and talk to the pilot, or
view, via remote television, the same view forward that he sees. Since your
vehicle has all the latest wireless telematics functions, you can talk on the
cell phone or hookup to the Internet en route. And you'll also have a
refrigerator, microwave and toilet facility. What a great way to travel.
Why Not WHSSSH? (or dual-mode highways in general)
We are stuck on our highways at 75 mph, because:
We have all been indoctrinated in the mantra "speed
automatically labeling any proposition to raise ground transportation speeds
A reasonable vision for an automated highway system, that can be
and considered for funding, has not existed - we can't get excited about
something we can't visualize.
The idea of an automated highway is, thus far, viewed as a
endeavor - think in terms of decades - with a distant payoff and we tend to
spend money only on short term endeavors with relatively quick payoffs -
unless its health or military or space related.
An organization dedicated to the design, deployment and operation
automated highway, or even to a replacement or supplement to the Interstate
system, does not exist. The auto companies are not appropriate; they have no
vision beyond building cars. The Federal government doesn't have the
capability (look at how they mismanaged, or failed to manage, the NAHSC), or
the interest or vision.
And driving at 150 mph has the elitist image of being for rich
Porsches and BMW's - right?
And higher speeds must inherently mean very poor gas mileage and
dependence on OPEC.
Part II - Here's who I am
(I apologize for the length)
I joined Ford's new Transportation Research and Planning Office in 1969 and
concentrated on the then new idea of automated people-mover systems. I also
participated in a joint Ford/MIT study of dual-mode vehicles (DMV), based on
a concept initiated by Dwight Baumann of MIT. This concept featured a
retractable arm which unfolded from the side of a car to hook onto the side
of a guideway for guidance. Also of note, our department was often
requested to respond to letters sent to Henry Ford II, which usually went
something like this: "Enclosed is my idea for a new transportation system -
my idea, plus Ford's manufacturing capability, will revolutionize
transportation and make us both rich".
I moved over to Ford's Transportation Systems Operations group when Ford
decided to go into the people-mover business. My role was to lead application
studies, including an extensive study of the application of such systems to
all of the U.S. largest airports. I rode Ford's new ACT people-mover (on a
1000 foot guideway) at Transpo 72 at Dulles airport, gauging the general
In 1971 I completed a Master's degree in Civil Engineering
and Urban Planning specialty). My master's thesis was "The Application of
People-Mover Systems to the Detroit CBD". Then in 1973 I received an MBA,
with my thesis entitled "A Market Survey of Customer Requirements for
People-Mover and PRT Systems".
I then joined General Motor's new Transportation Systems Division (TSD),
spending the next 3-1/2 years on studies such as a PRT system for Denver; an
international study of Light Rail Transit systems; an international bus
study; a transportation plan for the new city of Cavite in Manila - and
associated with all the engineers involved in GM's dual-mode study. When this
organization was disbanded I spent time introducing strategic planning into
GM and then worked as an executive at two different GM robotic subsidiaries.
During the past 11 years I have been an independent consultant on advanced
transportation systems, including projects such as the Transamerica Corridor
new Interstate study, comparing the potential of an automated highway system
to high speed rail and maglev; laser based intelligent cruise control (ICC)
product planning and field testing; similar planning and field testing of a
car navigation system; feasibility study and testing of roadway powered
electric vehicles; and my PAC-ITS AHS study for the NAHSC. I was also
contributing editor on advanced transportation systems for Automotive
Industries magazine for five years.
Some brief philosophy
I am a total skeptic regarding the NAHSC concepts for short headway AHS in
an urban area and regard that program as completely mismanaged. I personally
intervened with Christine Johnson of DOT to get an independent program review
initiated, which resulted in the program's cancellation.
Inventing a new and better transportation system continues to intrigue
people all over the world - but how many of these intriguing ideas ever get
deployed? I personally surveyed 16 hot new system ideas in 1970, all of which
were under active development - and all of which have subsequently disappeared.
These new concepts always seem to stem from a love affair with a new
technology - monorails, Hovair air pads, linear induction motors, magnetic
levitation, new batteries, magnetic nail guidance, etc., etc. But technology
is the trivial issue! The starting point must be the definition of an
objective - what are we trying to do and why - and that is where any debate
should be focused.
In the late 1950's, fresh out of college, I was fortunate enough to work on
advanced transportation ideas at Boeing - called space travel. We studied
earth-moon transportation (leading to the Apollo project); space station
designs; and the Dynasoar space shuttle concept. I have seen how long it
takes - decades - to bring such new ideas to reality. I just want everyone to
appreciate that the development of any new ground transportation concept -
like dual-mode - with the potential for major impact (and major controversy)
will likewise span decades. And my ideas, and your ideas, will most likely be
unrecognizable when they are finally deployed.
Part III (forthcoming)
Last modified: July 12, 2001