Saturday, July 11, 2009
I have been slipping into the fringe… That’s right, out of the main stream, into the ranks of the eccentric, into the world of the worshipers of the untried and untested… Beware!
I am thinking the unorthodox, have thought the unorthodox, and am beginning to believe! (Scary music and goose bumps ensue)
“What is this unholy philosophy?” you ask…trembling..
“It is this.”
“PRT can and should behave like ordinary traffic. Like ordinary drivers. It should react to the open road like a kid on spring break, unless, of course, Grandma’s on board. Slow traffic should stick to the slow lanes, stay off the highways.”
“No, wait ... Not independent drivers…”(the author closes his eyes as if communing with the great beyond) “Starlings! Schools of fish! Yes, That’s it! Traffic should behave communally. Like drivers who can read each other’s minds, and create ad hoc teams to punch through traffic, like a bubble in a witches brew…”
Think about it. Right now, the prevailing methodology is to slow the whole system down so that a vulnerable few don’t get frightened or motion sick. Everyone else has to take a little longer to get there. I understand that safety is a huge issue. Yet millions are being spent to research ordinary cars “driving by wire” as it is sometimes called. Now I might be a little crazy, but that’s nuts. Speed and switching control while captive in a rail is one thing, but turning your car over, on a real, 3D freeway to a computer is something way higher on the “crazy scale”. Or perhaps not… Modern passenger planes can take off and land unassisted, so what is the big deal?
The possibilities and ramifications are many to this philosophy. For example, passengers can be screened for speed preferences before boarding, or can have their personal preferences set upon creating an account. Now say, for example, 1st and 2nd avenues run North-South, and there are multiple PRT vehicles approaching the area, seeking North-South passage. Why not create a temporary fast and slow lane to accommodate those passenger preferences? Let the speed demons take 1st and the slowpokes take 2nd. This particular arrangement can dissolve as fast as it was created, while circumstances create other opportunities to snake through congested areas.
This obviously takes a much, much higher order of complexity in software control than the ordinary systems that have been developed so far. It is equally obvious that this approach is the future of PRT control, enabling the most efficient use of any given track infrastructure.
The author opens his eyes, séance complete, future revealed! (Wink wink.) You heard it here first, folks… ;o)
All kidding aside, there has been a shift away from centralized control in a variety of communication and control architectures in recent years, as individual “nodes” become endowed with greater and greater processing power. As for PRT, the original concept was to have a fleet of vehicles moving at exactly the same speed. Merges within congested areas would be accomplished by only slight speed changes, or presumably the merge would be called off. The claim of “non-stop” travel was a bit disingenuous, because the trip was to only begin once there was space on the track. In other words, the waiting would be done at the station instead of on route. Now the question is how, with every PRT “pod” having redundant Pentium class processors, can that computing power be employed to prevent traffic congestion in the first place? Although this may all seem very far down the road, I think it does have some bearing on the physical systems, including optimal track layout, station design, and vehicle capabilities.
Posted by Dan at 11:21 AM