Floating pods that run along a monorail 20ft in the sky may sound like the stuff of dreams – or 1950s sci-fi movies – but it's coming to Tel Aviv with the help of NASA and a company called Skytran.
The Skytran system is made up of pods that run on an overhead monorail. Each pod has a magnet that helps it hover above the track as it travels along, reducing friction and increasing potential performance.
Although the idea's been around since the 1990s, Skytran's arrival in Tel Aviv – set to roll out in 2014 – is the first large-scale public implementation of the maglev pods. Once it goes live, all you'll have to do is find your nearest Skytran station, set your desired start and end destinations with a smartphone app, climb aboard, and let maglev technology (short for magnetic levitation) waft you to your destination at speeds of up to 150mph.
Safer than driving a car
Even though Skytran is still in its infancy, other cities besides Tel Aviv have expressed an interest. A full-scale Skytran system will be installed at NASA's research centre in California, too.
Skytran should be cheaper to build compared with a road, train or bus system as it only needs a few easy to produce components, benefits from the ample space we have between the ground and the sky and can be easily extended, thanks to its modular construction method. Plus, because it uses solar panels, the transport system uses virtually no energy to run.
Because of decreased passenger potential, riding on the Skytran would likely cost somewhere between a taxi and bus. However, unlike a bus there's no danger of getting stuck next to the weirdo, and getting stuck in traffic is a non-issue ─ at least, until everyone starts using it.
We're looking forward to maglev pods arriving in cities a little closer to home – they're a bit more impressive than Boris Bikes.