A futuristic transportation system developed by NASA's Ames Research Center could finally be coming to fruition in Tel Aviv — should the project clear all the necessary regulatory hurdles, of course. Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai told Bloomberg News earlier this week that the SkyTran system, which uses two-seater pods that hang from magnetic rails, could help the traffic congestion problems the city currently struggles with.
Developed by engineers from NASA and the privately-held SkyTran, the project uses a maglev system — relying on magnetic levitation rather than wheels or conventional motors — to propel the cars, resulting in nearly silent transportation. The pods themselves can theoretically travel up to 150 miles per hour, though in practice they likely wouldn't go that fast. In order to prevent congestion on the main railway itself, pods pull off onto side tracks for dropping off and picking up passengers.
SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders is currently in the process of raising the $50 million it would take to build a four-mile line connecting an existing train station at Tel Aviv University with Atidim Park and a shopping district at the north end of the city. According to Sanders, the system — which would be privately owned and would charge a fee — could be built in as little as 18 months once financing and approvals are in place.
While the prospect of silently speeding above the city streets may seem like science fiction, this kind of solution isn't new. As Wired points out, these type of personal rapid transit systems have been proposed for years at this point, with Mountain View, California targeted as a possible SkyTran location back in 2009. As of today, however, the city hasn't conducted any feasibility studies on the project. With projects like Elon Musk's Hyperloop getting tremendous attention in recent days, it seems we're on the cusp of several transformational transportation technologies. Now if only somebody would actually build them.