WHSSSH - A Trustworthy 150 mph Automated Highway System


Jim Haugen

It was with a great deal of pleasure that I stumbled across the dual-mode web
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
topics initially:

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)


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:

(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
public's reaction.

In 1971 I completed a Master's degree in Civil Engineering (Transportation
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