THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
“It Will Never Be Built”
As one of the proud fathers of the dualmode transportation concept I of course love to hear immediate and enthusiastic acceptance of the idea, but occasionally I get arguments instead. Some of those who “don’t buy” dualmode at this point may be among those who have given up hope and believe that we are doomed to be stuck in traffic jams forever. Or maybe they are still unshakably convinced that outlawing or restricting the use of automobiles and getting everyone onto transit systems is the only answer. “Don’t bother me with facts, my mind is made up.” Or perhaps they would prefer continuing to add more highway lanes, and would let things come to a screeching halt when the world’s petroleum is gone. Then there are people who don’t care what happens. Those who fit any one of these categories are wasting their time in reading further. Please go do something else—go sit in a traffic jam, and have a nice day.
But some of those with arguments have been helpful because they brought up points I hadn’t thought about. In some cases they have resulted in favorable changes in, or additions to my REV proposal. People who question things are essential. It is by having doubts, foreseeing problems, and asking questions of ourselves and others that we gain insights, find mistakes and oversights, and make real progress. Complete unanimity on any subject is rare in human society. Dualmode will be controversial, as all other major innovative endeavors throughout history have been. Therefore we should hear what the naysayers have to say and respond.
Many of the following objections have actually been heard and the others could have been.
“WHY WOULD I WANT TO USE THE GUIDEWAYS?”
I like transportation consultant and dualmode advocate Dave Petrie’s response to this one: “When you are creeping along in rush-hour traffic at 5–mph, and you see others whizzing by at 60 or more miles per hour while watching TV on their dashboard screens, you will figure it out.”
“I WANT TO DO MY OWN DRIVING.”
Most of us do enjoy driving, at least part of the time. Dualmode vehicle owners will still drive on the streets, but some will want to do more driving than that. And some prefer powerful SUVs or sport cars, and want to be able to enjoy and demonstrate the car’s performance. THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM will actually increase the opportunities for highway recreational driving in regular automobiles (if there is affordable fuel available), because most of the cars and freight will be on the guideways, leaving the highways safer and much less crowded.
On the other hand, on long highway trips drivers get tired of driving and passengers get tired of riding. The high speed and lack of stops and traffic jams on the guideways will reduce traveler stress by greatly shortening travel times.
“PEOPLE WON’T TRUST COMPUTERS TO DO THE DRIVING.”
Most accidents on the highways are due to human-driver error, carelessness, recklessness, poor visibility, drunkenness, or incompetence. And most airline accidents are due to “pilot error.” The jetliner and the modern automobile are high-tech machines with thousands of things that could go wrong with them including their computers; yet the thing that does go wrong most often is the human behind the wheel. And there isn’t just our own driving or that of our taxi or bus driver to worry about; there are a lot of other failure-prone human drivers on the highways who may crash into us. A more realistic heading for this paragraph would have been, “People shouldn’t trust humans to do the driving.”
Remember that there are already a lot of computers in modern cars, and many more in airliners. In fact computers already do most of the airline flying; the pilot turns on the highly computerized autopilot and lets it fly the plane. How many more airplane accidents would we have had without autopilots? And repeating from a previous chapter: All of the vital computers will have backup computers, and the entire system will be designed such that no possible failures could cause an accident. The design will be “Failsafe.”
“I WOULD BE AFRAID TO TRAVEL AT TWO HUNDRED MPH.”
There are people who hate speed and those who love speed. We will travel fast in our cars on the guideways without getting traffic tickets, so fear of “The “Fuzz” won’t be part of the emotional equation. But “fast” is a relative term. In 1929 my parents bought a new automobile (an “Erskine,” built by Studebaker). During a demonstration ride the salesman pushed the car up to 60mph, to show how fast it could go. None of us had ever traveled that fast before. Dad and I loved it, but Mom was terrified. However, I suspect Mom sometimes drove faster than that herself in later years.
How we feel about speed depends upon our experience. After people are used to the advantages of safe guideway travel at two hundred-mph or some such speed, they would strongly object to going back to the snail’s-pace of only a hundred-mph. And two hundred-mph isn’t fast even now. We fly in passenger jets at five to six hundred, the Supersonic Concorde was twice that fast, our astronauts sometimes travel at 25,000-mph or more, and all of us travel safely at 68,000-mph in our constant journey around the sun. Furthermore we can travel extremely close together at that speed, and can kiss without knocking each other’s teeth out. Speed alone isn’t dangerous; and traveling closely together isn’t dangerous if there are no human drivers. On the guideways we will be safe because the cars will be synchronized with each other, much as we are synchronized with each other on our speeding planet.
“It isn’t the fall (or speed) that hurts, it is the sudden stop.” Highway crashes produce sudden stops. While the cars are on the guideways they will never stop or even slow down, except on the exit ramps. In an emergency the cars will all stop gradually, and since they will be synchronized even after power shutdown there will be no way they can crash into each other. Guideway cars at 200mph will be safer than human-driven cars at 30 mph.
“PEOPLE WON’T UNDERSTAND IT AND WON’T TRUST IT.”
It is true that most people will not understand many of the details of the coming dualmode system; but few if us understand all of the technical details of a lot of the things we use and take for granted every day, including our automobiles. Lack of understanding should elicit initial caution, but we all learn from experience what we can and cannot trust.
The guideway system will be complex, but actually it won’t be particularly high-tech. Almost no new technology will be required. This system will be primarily an integrated combination of well-known and well-developed subsystems. Advances in computers and in maglev in the last decade or two make the national dualmode system completely practicable. Men went to the moon and came back. We have Global Positioning Satellites. We have the Internet. Our dualmode transportation system will be no more technically difficult than those wonderful accomplishments.
“THE DARPA ROBOTS HAVE HAD MANY ACCIDENTS”
You are failing to recognize the extreme differences between maglev guideways and the desert courses for those experimental robotic cars. The guideways will be designed and built as straight, smooth, and safe as possible. The courses for the robots were purposely built crooked, rough, obstacle-strewn, and hard to drive, in order to challenge those automatic autonomous vehicles to their limits and beyond. The desert robots had to have more complex electronics, sensors, and control systems than needed in REV dualmode cars, or in regular automobiles.
“IT DOESN’T SOLVE THE ONE-PERSON/VEHICLE PROBLEM.
Ride-pool advocates and transit advocates have good arguments: An average of only 1.1 to 1.2 people per vehicle is very wasteful. One person per bicycle is OK, because that vehicle requires far less material to make, takes up much less room, and bicycle “fuel” is renewable. However, few of us choose to make the slow, dangerous, and miserable-in-the-cold-and-rain bicycle our vehicle of choice.
If people with environmental concerns (and that should include all of us) get their way, a high percentage of the dualmode vehicles will be small, and hopefully ride pools will be common. Like present ride-pool cars, dualmode pool cars will pick up riders at their homes and return them to their homes. Ride pools now use the HOV lanes. Dualmode ride pools will use the still-better guideways.
“I WOULD NEVER PAY TAXES TO BUILD THE GUIDEWAYS.”
You won’t have to. Initially a few million dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation for research and evaluation may be needed, but after that the system will be financed by businesses and investors. Private enterprise will invest in anything that shows strong promise of later profit. Transportation is basically a profitable business, but different types of transportation have seen different periods of profitability. Passenger railroads, streetcars, and transit buses all made a lot of profit once upon a time. It was only when they became obsolete due to the emergence of private-car door-to-door transportation that these old systems started losing money and were kept alive by subsidies. The automobile industry is still profitable because cars are still very popular. Not because there are no problems in connection with their use, but because their usefulness still transcends their related problems. That balance will reverse as traffic further increases, global warming accelerates, and petroleum becomes scarcer: The problems in connection with automobiles will soon transcend their usefulness. The worldwide consequences are painful to contemplate.
There is big money to be made in many areas of the coming dualmode age because of the huge demand for solutions to these problems. Although the “railroad barons” of a century ago have received a lot of bad press they did this country a huge service. They got a vital job done efficiently and rapidly. The dualmode guideway barons will now do us a similar service (while taking similar heat).
“YOU WILL NEVER SELL IT TO THE POLITICIANS.”
When I started trying to promote dualmode I wrote to over two hundred politicians (mostly national and local transportation-committee people) to tell them about this wonderful system and to encourage them to take actions to get it built. Boy, was I naïve! The response was negligible. The few who answered at all were polite but completely noncommittal. It took me awhile to understand that this was all I could have expected. Politicians are not expert in evaluating new systems. On average they have no better vision of the future than the average citizen does. And the smart ones have learned to not take chances. For the most part they stick to old solutions (even bad ones), because those are what most of their constituents understand and think they want. That is how politicians get elected and stay elected. But if the voters learn of and come to like dualmode, the politicians will immediately like it also—I guarantee.
“IT WOULD HURT BUSINESSES AND DESTROY JOBS.”
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Almost every invention in the his-tory of humanity has hurt some people. The Luddites have a point, but a weak one when examined broadly. Practically all major innovations dis-placed some workers and changed or eliminated some businesses. But the inventions that survive end up spawning new businesses and providing far more jobs than they destroy. Compare the number of people employed in the automotive industry with the number that once worked in wagon, buggy, harness, and blacksmith shops. The dualmode transportation revolution will provide hundreds of thousands of new jobs, but some retraining will be re-quired. Some labor unions will object and some new unions will form.
“DUALMODE IS TOO REVOLUTIONARY.”
Revolutions, be they social, governmental, military, or technological, are usually controversial; but it is by revolutions of one kind or another that most human progress is made. The separate bits and pieces needed for dualmode transportation are well known, but the effects of their combination and application in this urgently needed system will be revolutionary.
Speaking of revolutions in transportation, the first caveman who tried to ride on the back of an animal probably heard strong objections from some of his fellow cave dwellers. Later some people may have felt that the use of wheels and carts would displease the gods. Using fire and steam to power a vehicle was obviously an idea to be opposed by proper-thinking people. The internal-combustion engine was much too noisy and therefore should have been banned. Iron ships couldn’t possibly float. And certainly if humans were intended to fly God would have given us wings.
“ALL TRANSPORTATION INVENTIONS HAVE BEEN MADE.”
When I set off to the University in 1938 to study engineering, my father, who was an electrician, advised me not to take electrical engineering. He pointed out that all of the electrical inventions had already been made; he thought that little further electrical progress would be possible. He didn’t mention “electronics,” because that word and that field barely existed at that time.
Dad knew about batteries, electric motors, generators, transformers, incandescent lights, “neon lights”, x-ray, electroplating, electric welders, automobile ignition systems, telegraph, telephones, vacuum-tube radios, electric clocks, and electric doorbells—what else could there possibly be? Electrical engineering in his mind was a dead field, and he didn’t want me to get stuck in it.
My dad was a very smart man, and an inventor himself. But he, I, and all others at that time were unable to foresee the invention of and the mass production of transistors, integrated circuits, fluorescent lights, radar, tape recorders, television, camcorders, VCRs, CDs, DVDs, LEDs, LCDs, MRI, GPS, electric watches, ultrasound equipment, encephalograms, lasers, industrial robots, autopilots, portable phones, cell phones, communication satellites, computers, the Internet, and dozens of other “indispensable” electrical and electronic inventions. And I must not forget maglev and linear synchronous motors. (Dad lived to see men land on the moon and return, and I participated in the development of technologies required to get them there.)
Are we at the end of the line on major advancements in transportation? Hardly! It is interesting to note that we have had major revolutions in air and space travel in the last seventy-five years, but ground transportation has changed very little in that period. It is obvious to some of us that big changes in transportation are not only badly needed, but way past due. The next major step will be The Revolutionary Dualmode Transportation System.
“WHY HAVEN’T THE EXPERTS PROPOSED DUALMODE?”
Someone said, “An expert is a guy or gal from out of town who is carrying a briefcase.” Who are our transportation experts? They are not our politicians, briefcases or not. Transportation officials and committees are expert at ordering studies and spending money, but their expertise is largely limited to existing systems that haven’t solved and cannot solve our transportation and related environmental and energy problems.
The experts in existing transportation businesses are apt to oppose dualmode because it will be seen as competition to their current businesses. Five years ago I wrote letters disclosing dualmode to General Motors, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler, and received no positive responses. These and other companies will eventually build millions of dualmode cars—but they don’t seem to recognize it yet.
“Amateurs,” people outside of the mainstream of a technology, often, make our revolutionary inventions. This sometimes happens because the experts in that field are in the habit of looking for improvements in the things they are now working on and fail to consider broader more revolutionary approaches. They fail to see the forest for the trees. And a creative employee is generally not allowed to do creative work outside of his or her job description unless that person’s boss and upper management are likewise creative and visionary. “Forget that foolishness and do the job you were assigned to do, we have a schedule to meet.”
Usually a number of inventors will arrive at basically the same solution to a problem when the time for a particular invention is ripe. Our need for an effective transportation system is more than ripe; in fact our traffic is already a rotten stinking mess. Many inventors and engineers are now working on dualmode privately and in small companies. These people are the experts in dualmode, and they are proposing it
“THERE ISN’T ENOUGH OF A CRISIS FOR DUALMODE YET.”
Of all of the objections discussed in this chapter, this one is the most wrong and the most dangerous. Unfortunately a great many people and organizations fail to act upon upcoming problems in general until the problems becomes crises. “Crisis management” is sadly a much-too-common practice. Specifically, too few people recognize that our transportation and related environmental crises are already at high levels, so we are already very late in starting to develop an effective solution.
Even if we decided to build a dualmode system today, with the whole nation behind the effort it couldn’t be completed for at least 20 years. By then the petroleum-production peak (which we discussed in Chapter 14) will have long passed, and we will be suffering many of the crises that are sure to follow that scary event.
“IF IT WAS POSSIBLE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE BEFORE”
Duh. There is a first time for every accomplishment. Would this person have asked the same question before the development of the wheel, the steam engine, the steamboat, the railroads, the automobile, and the airplane?
IT WILL BE DONE
Some people are leery of change, they don’t like new things and unproven things, they fear technology, or they may feel nostalgia for earlier and simpler times. And some people just like to argue: Some who don’t create things themselves seem to satisfy their egos by criticizing those who do. “The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make many mistakes because they attempt many things.” — M.W.Larmour
Dualmode will be controversial, but in the opinion of a growing number of experts, it is technically sound and is the right system to build. There will be risks, but “Where there is no risk, there is no achievement.” Wernher von Braun remarked, “I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution”. There is an old saying: “Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t stand in the way of those who are doing it.”
The title of this Chapter is wrong; THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM will be built, but not in time to save civilization a tremendous amount of pain after the peak petroleum production date. Kurt Cobb wrote a very thought-provoking article called, Triage For the Post-Peak Oil Age. (Energy Bulletin, May 15, 2006.) In it he lists transportation neither as a hopeless case that we shouldn’t waste time on nor as a situation that will take care of itself, but as a “Code Blue” item that can and must be fixed after Peak Oil. Kurt, we agree with you.
A ray of hope can be seen in the use statistics for Dr. Schneider’s Innovative Transportation Technologies website, the home for this book. In 1997 it received 31,456 visits, and has attracted more attention every year. In 2005 it had 1,478,674 visits. Forty-seven times as much attention in eight years. Not bad for a start, but we need a hundred million people to pay attention, not a mere million and a half.
Next: CHAPTER 19
The Way to Dualmode
Back to: CONTENTS
Last modified: August 02, 2006