Automated Transit Network (ATN) at Maker Faire 2014

Spartan Superway Model 

 

Spartan Superway

An interdisciplinary team of engineers, industrial designers, urban planners, and business students are designing a paradigm-breaking, sustainable transportation system - the Spartan Superway. The Superway is a solar-powered automated transit network (ATN) that has potential to significantly impact urban transportation. 
 
The concept for ATN (sometimes referred to as personal rapid transit (PRT) or podcars) has been around since the 1950s, and there are a handful of very modest implementations scattered around the world: Morgantown, West Virginia; Heathrow Airport, London; Masdar City, United Arab Emirates; and Suncheon Bay, South Korea, but none of these systems are solar powered, nor have they been developed to a point that municipalities are willing to commit public funds to implement ATN widely as a new transit option. We are developing and demonstrating solar powered ATN as a viable transit option for urban areas.
 
The basic features of ATN are:
 
    Small, fully automated vehicles that run on a network of exclusive-use guideways that are typically elevated above grade
    On-demand, origin-to-destination service (like a taxi)
    Off-line stations (vehicles do not stop until their destination is reached)
 
The goals of the project at SJSU are to:
 
1. Develop proof-of-concept models and demonstrations that advance the state-of-the-art for solar powered ATN system technology
2. Educate municipal leaders, planners, policy makers, and the general public that there is a truly sustainable alternative to current transit modes, such as automobiles, buses, and light rail 
3. Train the next generation of professionals, particularly engineers and planners, about ATN
4. Serve as a center of competence for ATN research and development.
 
The Superway design features a light weight vehicle suspended from a propulsion assembly (called the "bogie"), which rolls along a slim guideway that is elevated above grade and is placed within existing rights of way (such as down the center of a road). The vehicle is sized so that several adults could travel together including luggage or bicycles. Solar photovoltaic panels are mounted above the guideway and are tied to the electric grid. The panels are sized so that they will collect enough energy throughout the day that the system can be "net zero" or even "net gain" -- a positive energy producer. The bogie will pick up power from a power rail mounted within the guideway.
 
The important benefits of solar powered ATN and our Superway design are many. It will:
 
1. Significantly reduce the use of finite, greenhouse gas producing, polluting fossil fuels
2. Provide truly sustainable transportation (uses renewable energy)
3. Lead to safer urban environments, because it physically separates people from machines
4. Reduces loss of productivity due to road congestion
5. Provide a higher quality of transit (coverage, timeliness, and comfort) that is accessible for all people
6. Enables new approaches to integrate transportation with the built environment
 
The Superway effort began in 2012 through the ENGR 195 Interdisciplinary Senior Project program. The team during the 2012-2103 Academic Year ('AY') won $5000 from their entry in the Solar Skyways competition that was sponsored by the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST, https://www.inist.org/). The first team designed and fabricated a 1/12 scale model test track for development of vehicle controls. The second team during the 2013-2014 AY developed a 16 ft. long full-scale guideway, bogie, and solar power model that was just exhibited at the 2014 Maker Faire. The exhibit also featured a full scale mock up of an ATN vehicle, the much-improved model test track developed last year, a set of line tracking robots by CompE students, and a low cost controls development platform designed by ME MS student Adam Krueger. We have been invited to exhibit our work on solar powered ATN at the InterSolar conference this July in San Francisco (http://www.intersolar.us/en/intersolar.html).
 
The next step for the project is to develop a full scale test track that can carry passengers and demonstrate basic operation through a guideway switch. We would like to demonstrate this at the next Maker Faire (2015).
 
For more photos of the event please visit the images site. For images on the InterSolar Exhibit please see the image site.
Exhibition at InterSolar North America in San Francisco at Moscone Center
Exhibition at InterSolar North America in San Francisco at the Moscone Center