Chapter 5

Dualmode History



A few creative thinkers envisioned manually driving on the streets and automatically traveling on guideways in the same vehicle much earlier, but let’s start this history with a Dualmode Transportation National Conference which was sponsored by the Transportation Research Board, and held at Washington D.C. in 1974. Participants in that early dualmode conference included the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Commission on Socio-technical Systems, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Urban Mass Transportation Administration, and many universities, corporations and state organizations.  Sixty-two talks and papers were presented at that conference, including several from IBM and General Motors. 


Sampling a few quotes from that conference: In a paper on the Safety of Dualmode Vehicles, Weinstock and Rossettos of the U.S. Department of Transportation wrote, “Head-on collisions would be impossible.  Human error (or vehicle operation by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is eliminated.  The computer can anticipate events that are miles ahead of the vehicle and take corrective action in a controlled and programmable fashion, thus eliminating surprises and near misses.” 


A participating university professor wrote in part, “Dualmode automated systems possess the important advantage that the passenger can remain in one vehicle from origin to destination just as in an automobile.  “Dual mode not only preserves the feeling of ownership thought by many to be extremely important, but also permits one to carry one’s own things in one’s automobile without suffering the inconvenience of transferring them from one vehicle to another.” 


In a Summary of the Conference, Chairman Eugene Canty of General Motors reported: “Dual Mode systems appear to be sufficiently attractive to warrant further technological development.  For urban-wide applications, a Dual Mode system which includes both buses and personal vehicles is more effective than one consisting of either type exclusively.”  The majority of participants at that 1974 meeting supported dualmode and urged that such systems be designed and built. 



A lot of things have changed since that conference was held.  For one thing the words “Global Warming” were not to be found in those proceedings.  This current major concern of the world had not yet reared its ugly head; the rate at which humans were releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere was very much less then than it is now.  According to one paper in the conference, there were “118 million cars in the US in 1974.”  In 2006, as this book is written, there are over 250 million cars.  In the year 2000 two and two thirds trillion vehicle-miles were traveled on US highways.  (From U.S. Department of Transportation website) 


This huge increase in the number of cars and the miles traveled not only accelerates deterioration of the environment and expedites the depletion of the world’s petroleum; it explains why our traffic-congestion problems are much more urgent now than they were in 1974.  One of the conference papers said, “Transit accounts for five percent of urban travel.”  It has dropped to around two and a half percent now.  The popularity of cars continues to grow in spite of the efforts to get people to use transit.  Again according to U.S. DOT data, there was less than a quarter as many trolley buses in 1996 as there were in 1960.  (Some transit systems may even have been operating without subsidies back then.)  The passenger railroads had gone bankrupt just prior to that 1974 conference (The government took them over and named them “AMTRAK” in 1971). 


But even though the consensus at that meeting was that dualmode was good, over thirty years later we still don’t have it.  If this concept is so good, what happened to prevent its development?  Unfortunately, three decades isn’t long in terms of getting anything done at the national level, and a study of the papers presented then provides additional answers.  The transportation crises weren’t great enough and the dualmode concepts proposed at that time were not advanced enough—1974 was too early. 


Computer technologies were very primitive then, and this fact would have precluded any system nearly as good as what we can build today.  In that meeting there was considerable discussion of computer-controlled automatic systems for the guideway mode, but only vehicles with wheels were considered.  Magnetic levitation, the most logical contender for dualmode vehicle support, wasn’t mentioned anyplace in that conference.  And Linear-Synchronous-Motor propulsion, a vital feature for guideway safety, high capacity, and energy efficiency wasn’t mentioned either.  LSMs were much less developed and little known then. 


That 1974 conference was a good one, but unfortunately it has been largely forgotten.  There is now a vital need for an updated National Dualmode Conference.  This time the favorable conclusions will not be forgotten.  The need for this system has grown tremendously since 1974. 


There is much current effort in maglev and linear-synchronous motor technology, much effort toward improving computers, much effort toward making better batteries and better fuel cells, and much effort to develop affordable clean sustainable electric power systems; but there is as yet practically no effort at the government level to logically combine all of these good things and develop desperately needed dualmode transportation. 



The NAHSC, which consisted of Bechtel Corp., Delco, Caltrans, Carnegie Mellon, GM, Lockheed Martin, Parsons Brinkerhoff, PATH, and Raytheon, proposed a type of dualmode system using personal cars wherein the cars would be driven normally on city streets, but they would be under the control of sensors and computers while on specially-equipped highways.  This system was tested briefly in San Diego, California.  Eighty percent of the funding was U.S. Department of Transportation money.  Their approach, using modified existing highway lanes, appears to make sense at first glance; but for the following reasons it turned out to be penny-wise but pound-foolish.


NAHSC obviously understood that any successful system must retain private cars, the system must be automated at high speeds, and that high capacity is obtained by combining high speed with close vehicle spacing.  But, in the opinion of the author, NAHSC was not proposing to go far enough, and their approach had serious basic disadvantages.  Their system would still deplete our rapidly vanishing oil reserves, still pollute the atmosphere, still require ever more highway lanes, still consume millions of pounds of rubber, and it would still be subject to chain-reaction accidents from electronic-system failures, blowouts, mechanical failures, and engine failures in individual vehicles at high speeds.  These and other limitations of the NAHSC system caused the USDOT to withdraw funding from it in early 1998.


Dualmode of the type discussed in this book promises to solve all of the problems left unsolved by the NAHSC system.  Dualmode cars with synchronous-linear-motor propulsion could also safely travel much closer together than NAHSC cars could with their separate engines and proximity-sensor velocity control on each automobile.  NAHSC estimated thirteen-foot clearance between cars compared with our estimate of one-foot between cars.  Running the vehicles much closer together not only increases the capacity of the system in vehicles per hour but it greatly reduces the aerodynamic drag and thereby reduces the power required. 




  Time to complete   Ten years minimum?   Twenty years?
  Cost of "Guideways"   High   Much higher
  Cost of Vehicles   Moderate   Moderate
  Speed   60 mph   200 mph
  Minimum Headway   4.0 meters   0.3 meters
  Capacity per lane   11,300 cars per hour   66,000 cars per hour
  Safety   Better than highways   Far better
  Power Source   Fossil fuel   Electricity
  Environmental   Would generate CO2   Green vehicles
(Automated Highways entries base upon United States NAHSC data)




Many ideas look rosy initially, but analysis beyond the first flash of inspiration often discloses major faults or fallacies.  Once in a great while a super idea comes along.  Dualmode transportation is clearly a super idea.  The more its details are developed the more evident its merits become.  The fact that a sizable number of people have independently invented dualmode is further indication that it is an idea whose time has come.  It is a safe bet that a few of you who are reading this book had also conceived of the dualmode idea.


George Stephenson and a few others saw that steam would replace horses in pulling trains, and that railroads would replace not only horse-drawn passenger and freight trains but also replace the painfully slow horse-drawn canal boats.  The general population lacked that vision.  Henry Ford saw that the automobile would largely replace the railroads.  Now some of us see that dualmode guideways will largely replace highways, reduce domestic air travel, get us there faster and safer, and make our private cars more useful.  And we see that we will have all of this with major environmental and energy advantages as well. 


Dualmode will require no new science.  It can progress from vision to fact with current technologies.  Magnetic levitation has been around for a hundred years and crude computers for fifty years; but a really good dualmode system could not have been designed and built much earlier than this because the development of maglev, linear synchronous motors, and computers, weren’t advanced enough for it.  However, even if the technology levels required had been available earlier, dualmode would not have been built then because our traffic and environmental problems hadn’t yet escalated to the crisis stage.  But now we have the crises, and the technologies, and dualmode is going to happen—eventually.  We will address the question, “Why not now?” in later chapters. 



Late in his career as an engineering manager with the Boeing Company he was responsible for some of the development of the “Morgantown People Mover” an automatic single-mode transit system.  That work led him to visualize and submit an invention disclosure on a dualmode transportation concept to the Boeing Company in 1980.  Boeing did not pursue the idea further, and neither did the author, until sixteen years later. 


Reynolds’ 1980 disclosure is titled, “Dual Mode Electric Ground Transportation System.”  It proposed “A worldwide automated transportation system for individuals, businesses, and governments.”  It employed “electric-powered cars which can operate both from on-board batteries and from electrified roadways.”  It would “provide automatic steering and automatic constant velocity for all cars on the electrified roadway.”  The disclosure also proposed the operation of electric trucks and buses on the automatic roadways. 


After retiring from Boeing, among a number of other activities, Reynolds wrote a book on inventing.  In 1996 he was writing a second book titled: “Nutopia,” meaning a new Utopia.  In the 500 years since Thomas More wrote the book Utopia things have changed, to say the least.  What might have seemed like a perfect society back then certainly wouldn’t be considered a perfect society today.  (Be patient; this relates to dualmode transportation, we promise.)


In planning for the book Nutopia, he thought about the status quo in each aspect of our modern society, and analyzed what was wrong with them.  Then he fabricated an ideal or optimum (in his opinions) state of affairs for each aspect of the imaginary super-country of Nutopia.  But that book hasn’t yet been finished and published, because he became enamored with the transportation system in Nutopia, and went to work studying it full time. 


In writing about Nutopia’s transportation system the author first looked at our real-world traffic jams, fossil-fuel depletion, atmospheric pollution, highway deaths, and the ever-wider ribbons of concrete overcrowded with frantic ants; and he reached a conclusion: “There has to be a better way—a much better way.” 


Guess what?  That “much better” transportation system for Nutopia turned out to be an updated version of the dualmode system he had proposed to Boeing sixteen years earlier.  Nutopia’s transportation system was not only perfect for Nutopia; it is just what we need in the real world. 


Now, 26 years after the Boeing disclosure, with the great advances in maglev, synchronous linear motors, solid-state electric power conversion, and incredibly fast computers with enormous memory, these early dualmode visions are readily achievable.  In 1980 they would have been difficult and the resulting system much less satisfactory. 


“HiLoMag” was the acronym the author initially gave to his conceptual dualmode system.  It stood for High and Low speed Maglev transportation.  He now proposes the name, THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM or “REV.”  That is the system described in this book.  In concept it has changed little from his original thinking over a quarter century ago, but the details use the latest technologies.  Surely the actual system to be designed and built won’t be exactly like the one described here, but please design and built a better one, not a poorer one than this. 



Almost every good invention is a response to a need, and often some quirk of fate leads the inventor to the answer indirectly.  In this case “Nutopia” needed a transportation system that was better than any system in existence.  Looking beyond that subterfuge, we are the ones who need a better transportation system; the fictional Nutopia was just a serendipitous tool that inserted itself into the creative process.


The author was also involved in another valuable example of serendipity:  In 1949 he and fellow-engineer Leroy Perkins invented and developed a critical component of a digital control system for a radio-controlled model boat, strictly as a hobby.  That model, with its unique control system, won a world’s championship in Europe in 1960. 


But that is neither the end nor the most significant part of the story.  Perkins and Reynolds sold the patent rights to that “toy-boat” digital decoder and memory to The Boeing Company, and it was used as a key part of the guidance system for the BOMARC national air-defense missile.  One never knows where a unique idea may end up. 



When a need for something develops, usually a number of creative minds will independently start working to fill that need.  In the case of our need to solve major transportation problems, dozens of people have come forth with ideas.  It was not surprising to find that many of them have independently arrived at the following conclusions: Our future ground transportation system must retain private vehicles of some kind.  It should be dual mode.  It should use electric-power or other “clean” energy in both modes.  It must be automatically controlled, guided, and navigated at high speed.  And the cars should travel not only fast but also close together in order to produce a high-capacity system.  Since many thinking people have come to the same conclusions independently, these conclusions are probably correct. 


Henry Ford wrote in 1909, “I invented nothing new, I simply assembled into a car the discoveries of other men, behind whom there were centuries of work.  “Had I worked fifty, or ten, or even five years before, I would have failed.  “So it is with every new thing.  “Progress happens when all the factors are ready, and then it is inevitable.”  Change Henry’s word “car” to the word “dualmode” and that quotation fits the present situation perfectly.  The last two factors needed to make it possible were the development of synchronous-linear-motor maglev technology and recent developments in computer technology.  Henry was right: Dualmode is now “inevitable.”  Ford was one of many inventors of the automobile, just as there are now many inventors of the coming dualmode transportation system. 



Is dualmode obvious?  To some yes, but not to most people—not initially, because the concept is revolutionary.  It will be a “giant leap for mankind.”  Science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, like Jules Verne, sometimes “invented” things in his stories that later came to pass.  Clarke’s Third Law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” 


Transportation presents a “can’t-see-the-forest-for the-trees” situation.  When we look at existing transportation systems and their shortcomings one at a time our vision is apt to be limited.  A car is a car, and a train is a train “and never the twain shall meet.”  (Two twains on the same twack go whack when they meet.)  Clarke’s “magic” in the case of dualmode is the remarkable advantages of a nonobvious combination of now-quite-separate railroad and automobile concepts. 


If we restrict ourselves to conventional thinking it is insane to think of people traveling 200mph in private cars.  It is crazy to suggest running high-speed cars so close together that they practically touch.  Only a lunatic would seriously claim a single lane of transportation could replace thirty-three lanes of highway.  One who would say that private cars could get there faster than jet airplanes on trips of up to a thousand miles is demented.  It would take a person a few cards short of a deck to think that we can use still more cars, travel faster, and yet save fossil fuel and reduce smog and global warming.  I will accept for myself any or all of the above synonyms for “mentally challenged.”  Try acting crazy sometime—it is fun.  (It keeps me from going crazy.)  Based upon existing ground transportation systems and traditional thinking the above claims are impossible to meet, but by combining selected features of old systems and using new technologies we will produce magic. 


Again, the author is neither the only nor the first inventor of dualmode transportation systems.  Many are volunteering their time and energy (and jeopardizing their credibility with some people) because they feel a responsibility to their fellow man to see that the very promising dualmode concept gets a fair trial.  This concept is just too good to be allowed to fall through the cracks.  But we have discovered that conveying this vision, knowledge, and conviction to the people who will have to act upon it is extremely difficult. 



It is sometimes said that the day of the private independent inventor is long gone; we no longer see the likes of Watt, Edison, Bell, etc.  Most of the important new developments are so high-tech they can only come out of research labs in universities or large corporations.  The earlier inventions were simple enough that one person or a small team working in a modest laboratory and shop could design, develop and test the product, and even manufacture and sell it.  But the inventors are still creating, whether in their garages or in huge corporations.  More patents than ever are being issued.  Many private inventors are working on dualmode because it is a fascinating challenge, and because “somebody has to do it” and almost no government or private organizations or corporations are doing it. 

The author and many of the other dualmode inventors have placed the “intellectual property rights” to their work in the public domain (meaning that patents are not being applied for).  The situation is sort of like “freeware” on the Internet, the work they have done is free to the world.  Dualmode is all yours—ours.  Do something with it.  Please.  This senior citizen won’t be around when the system is up and running; but he will die happy if he lives to see that we are moving toward a national and international dualmode system. 



On the Streets


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Last modified: August 05, 2006