The bus you can drive under is being tested in China

As a commuter who doesn’t drive, I’m completely behind the idea that those stuffed into uncomfortable buses should have to spend as little time there as possible. Dedicated bus lanes help with this a little, but at the expense of other commuters.

The bus you can drive under is being tested in China

Some years ago, China came up with an insanely brilliant idea to whisk commuters around cities quicker without slowing down neighbouring cars. Buses would straddle multiple lanes of traffic, allowing commuters to literally leapfrog other vehicles ensuring that everyone gets home quicker. This is what the futuristic pitch video looked like: Well, it wasn’t the stuff of science fiction, it’s really happening. An actual test run has taken place in Qinhuangdao city. But as anyone who has ever been disappointed by a fast-food item looking nothing like the picture above the counter will know, sometimes the reality doesn’t quite match the promise:

Okay, that’s me being exceptionally harsh. This is a test, not the finished product. And even though the bus crawls 300 metres along a completely straight demo track at what could generously be described as “distracted strolling pace”, it does at least work, allowing cars to travel underneath, and passengers to sit in the top section. Job done.

Still, there’s clearly a long way to go: not only will the finished bus travel between 40 and 50kmh, but you’d hope the final release wouldn’t be troubled by turns in the road, traffic lights or bridges.

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Each Transit Elevated Bus (or TEB) will carry up to 300 passengers, and three TEB cars can be linked together at a time. That means that in theory the vehicle could save a lot of road space (and plenty of fuel, given it’s electric), but for a concept six years in the making, this demo hasn’t answered every question a sceptic could have. For one thing, if the finished vehicle can turn, what happens to cars driving underneath when the bus twists? That sounds like an accident waiting to happen to me.

An actual moving concept is a good start – even if it’s on a very limited test track – but ideas of this sort have actually been kicking around since 1969 in the USA, and this is as close as we’ve come to anything happening. Hopefully I’ll be eating my words from the top deck of a London straddling bus soon, but for now, colour me sceptical.

Image via China Xinhua News

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