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SkyTranSafety

One of my favorite movie quotes comes when the doors close automatically as the Jurassic Park theme park ride starts to move, "God help us! We're in the hands of engineers". Like it or not, in many areas of modern life our safety is in the hands of engineers, and they had better be good ones.

Contents

Engineering

The safety engineering of the SkyTran system appears to be far better than that of the ill-fated German TransRapid maglev train accident . The crucial design decision was hanging from the guideway rather than riding on it. The fact that TransRapid needed that ill-fated maintenance vehicle up on the track every day to clear debris off the track tells us that Doug Malewicki's vehicle-below design is probably the only suitable one for a city-wide network -- vehicle-above tracks would be uneconomical as well as unsafe for 100-MPH automatic travel.

Second, TransRapid did not have brakes capable of stopping it in 54 feet, and passengers wearing seat belts that make that safe. As a rail system, TransRapid inherited the design philosophy of trains, and may even have been covered by laws such as those in the US that limit train deceleration to 1/8 G (several sites claim this, but haven't found original source) to avoid hurting passengers standing in the aisles, and thus take miles to stop.

Third, because SkyTran is designed to stop in a short distance, it can use a simple short-range radar to detect obstacles in time to avoid them. TransRapid had no system to detect obstacles according to this article.

Like other well-engineered systems, these advantages depend on one another. Elimination of obstacles on the track was one reason for vehicle-below systems, but they also greatly reduced torsion loads, which reduced the loads that the magnets and coils must bear, allowing them to be lighter, which made it easier for a continuous roll-formed track and standard utility poles to support the track, which makes installation easy and economical, ....

Designing mechanical brakes inside the frame, capable of 6-G deceleration (which stops the cars traveling at 100 MPH in just 54 feet) in any weather was crucial for packing vehicles closely on the track, which means one SkyTran track can carry as much traffic as 1.5-3 lanes of freeway, which makes it very economical -- but the close spacing also makes a cheap and simple radar effective for collision avoidance.

Weather

Weather is a major problem for current transportation modes.

Fog can shutdown an airport. A snowstorm can bring a major city to it's knees.

SkyTran is not dependent on line-of-sight to operate or road-to-tire friction to stay on course. Intelligent routing and covered guide-ways make the trip fast and safe


Traffic

Independently controlled traffic does not exist with a SkyTran system.

Often, the heavy traffic caused by an traffic accident is not due to the accident itself but the rubber-neckers looking to gain pleasure from other's misfortune.

Even if that was the only problem a SkyTran system solved it would be worth it. But, that is not nearly all of it. Re-routing is almost exclusively done by having radio announcers telling the public about the problem. That causes the masses to take unknown routes through less public roads. With a SkyTran system, in milliseconds the system would turn a normally momentous problem into a minor delay for the traveler.

Notes

+ (The fictional safety engineers in Jurassic Park made classic mistakes. For instance instead of an active defense like an electric fence that turned off unless a network of computers was operational, they should have put Tyrannosaurus behind a passive barrier, like a 100-foot ravine, and used an intrinsically safe mechanism like a bridge or arm too weak to support T. rex to get people on the island on the rare instances when they needed to be there)