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Tel Aviv engineers to evaluate sky car network

An Israeli company is to evaluate a rapid, on-demand mass transit system claimed to eliminate delays and queues.

The so-called skyTran system of passive magnetic levitation (MagLev) pod vehicles is to be trialled in the grounds of Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) corporate campus.

Developed by the eponymously named NASA Space Act company based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, skyTran is a network of computer-controlled, two-person vehicles designed to deliver passengers to their destination in an energy-efficient and high-speed manner.


Evaluation of the Technology Demonstration System (TDS) will include testing, refinement, and validation of skyTran’s technology in IAI’s controlled environment and will provide a platform for skyTran vehicles to travel at high speeds with full payloads while levitating.

SkyTran expects the TDS to be followed by deployment of the first commercial skyTran system in Tel Aviv, Israel. The first commercial system will be completed within 24-months of start of construction, which is projected for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Total construction cost for the entire system is estimated at $80m. The company said this system would be Phase One of a much larger urban/suburban network that will cover Tel Aviv’s ‘Gush Dan’ metropolitan area. Other skyTran routes in advanced planning are in Toulouse, France; Kerala, India; and the San Francisco Bay Area, California.


Once commercially deployed, skyTran envisages passengers requesting a vehicle with computer or smartphone for embarkation at a location convenient to the traveller.

Once in transit, the computer-controlled system provides optimal spacing of the skyTran vehicles that are designed to travel at over 62mph on an overhead network. The fastest routes on the network are identified and all vehicles are sent along at speed with vehicles entering and exiting the skyTran stream with no interruption to the flow of traffic.

SkyTran claims that because its system can be built as an expandable grid, it will never be filled to capacity. As the demand grows, more track can be installed and additional vehicles can be added the network.

The company further claims that skyTrans’ modular rails and supports are off-the-shelf components that can be put up - and repaired - quickly and easily. The vehicles themselves are said to be lightweight, streamlined, and inexpensive to mass-produce.


Readers' comments (4)

  • This is similar to JPods ( I am not sure who came up with the idea first.

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  • Isn't it more economical & practical to start with "sky bus" instead of sky car network? If the technology is good & feasible, but hampered by high costs to begin with, then most of us will have no chance to enjoy the new technology, right?

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  • Joshua, skyTran was invented and patented in 1990 by original inventor Douglas Malewicki in California. And he's still involved with skyTran today. According to the JPods site, they started in 1999. skyTran is contactless, passive maglev with linear magnetic propulsion, while JPods are based on motors and wheels. I believe skyTran's system will be more energy efficient and smoother, to name at least 2 benefits.

    Anonymous, skyTran is designed to move small groups of people, 1-2 at a time in the vehicles to their destinations non-stop. It is better than using buses in cities, since a large vehicle would potentially have to stop to pickup additional people, and not all the people on the 'sky bus' would be going to the same place. skyTran routes people to their destinations non-stop, similar to the way the Internet routes data. Traditional buses and high-speed trains could still be used between large cities to move large groups of people to common destinations. skyTran can easily serve as a "feeder network" for those purposes.

    Also, the initial development cost is for the test system at IAI. skyTran's cost is predicted to be 80 to 90% cheaper than light rail systems once in mass production. This will make it much cheaper to deploy skyTran than a traditional rail system, along with less construction disruptions to cities.

    See more information and example scenarios at their website (I am a skyTran advocate, but do not work for the company)

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  • I am curious as to how any operator would present the Safety Case for such a system. What happens if one of the pods fails? Assuming collisions can be avoided, how can it be recovered and how do you rescue its occupants and any others in following pods stranded whilst the track is blocked? This is a problem that impacts more conventional monorails too.

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