Engineers in China have made their futuristic traffic ‘straddling’ bus a reality.
The design, that loosely resembles a catamaran on wheels, has been on the drawing board for a number of years, and hit the road for the first time this week - albeit just for a test run.
The ‘Transit Elevated Bus’, as it is officially known, effectively straddles two lanes of traffic allowing it to avoid peak hour gridlock by literally driving over cars - provided they are lower than two metres.
The overhead body of the bus can accommodate 300 passenger that enter and exit via built-in lifts that go between the bus and its platforms.
Trails are taking place in Qinhuangdao, in Hebei province, but the bus will be confined to a 300 metre-long test track rather than the city’s busy roads during this time.
This decision has been criticised in some quarters for not being able to provide definitive proof on whether the model will be agile enough to function on dynamic city streets.
The vehicle is expected to travel at up to 60 kilometres per hour, and similar to an underground subway, up to four 22 metre-long buses can be linked together to form a single service with the capacity to carry 1,200 people.
This means it can effectively replace 40 traditional buses; and given that it runs solely on electricity, would be much more environmentally friendly, particularly in cities plagued by poor air quality.
Its principal function however, is to tackle big city congestion while being significantly cheaper and faster to roll out than a subway system.
The bus’ chief engineer Song Youzhou told local publication Xinhua, “The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space.”
A working model of the design was unveiled at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May to much international interest and production on the life-size bus commenced last month.