Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spartan Superway in the News

Here are some news articles about Spartan Superway at Intersolar in July and Maker Faire in May.

2014-07-15  Automated Transit Network (ATN) at Maker Faire 2014
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. 

2014-07-11  Spartan Superway showcases sustainable transportation
The Spartan Superway special exhibit at Intersolar North America demonstrated practical applications of PV in the transportation industry. Students and faculty from San Jose State University showcased their futuristic transportation system, which utilizes solar power to move compact, fully automated vehicles along above ground steel rail system. The concept is designed to maximize efficiency by ensuring cars only accelerate and decelerate between stops once. The system generates 1 MW per mile of track, moving the vehicles close to 40 miles per hour to the occupant’s destination. Faculty staffing the booth explained the advantages to the system.

2014-07-10  A Little Trouble And A Lot Of Hope At The Spartan Superway Project:
The Spartan Superway Project is a multi-disciplinary team of student engineers, designers and urban planners at San Jose State University. The group envisions cities where on-demand, elevated transport alleviates traffic congestion and gets people to destinations faster – and all of it would be powered by renewable energy.

2014-07-08  New Innovations Shown at Intersolar Conference in SF
The sun can move lots of things -- like one day, a public transit system.

"And move people with the energy that they're sitting underneath," said project manager Sam Ellis.

Here, it's not just about making more power, but using less.

"You don't want to have rubber tires on an asphalt road," Ellis said. "You want to have steel wheels on a steel rail."

2014-05-10  SJSU students to unveil their innovative solar-powered Automated Transit Network design at upcoming Maker Faire
In an interdisciplinary effort, San José State University engineering, business, design and urban planning students are determined to revolutionize transportation with their new Spartan Superway, a 100 percent solar-powered Automated Transit Network (ATN), using driverless podcars. The ATN project was first motivated by a solar design challenge proposed by the Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST) two years ago, to help cities move toward a more sustainable future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beyond Fire, Insurance

The term conservative has more than one meaning. In politics, conservative means "disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change."

In risk assessment and decision-making, conservative means: "cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate."

Another consideration is that risk can be asymmetrical. The likelihood that buying fire insurance will bankrupt you is very low. But even though the probability that your house will catch fire is very low, if you don't have fire insurance and your home does burn down, your finances will be in shambles.

There is a fire alarm wailing – people in the know are telling us that climate change will lead to unprecedented chaos. We have been alerted that the fire danger today is extreme. But does the fire brigade even hear the siren? You realize, of course, that losing a planet is far worse than losing your home. A house can be replaced, but good planets are hard to find. (They're scarce and few.) It is highly unlikely that humanity could find another one if ours burns up.

Compared to the asymmetrical risk asssociated with lighting the match that would destroy our planet's experiment in consciousness, the cost of insurance is obviously negligible, even if it turns out to be a full time task for every human being on the planet to put out the fire.

A yardstick against which climate change has been measured is global temperature, influenced in turn by CO2 and other gases in the atmosphere. Another yardstick is the acidity of the oceans.

What if we create a better world for nothing?A politically conservative response might be to leave well enough alone: "... disposed to preserve existing conditions..."

For effective risk assessment and decision-making, on the other hand, clearly the conservative estimate would mean to err on the side of doing too much.

In 1824, Elizabeth Heyrick (1769-1831) wrote a pamphlet, "Immediate, Not Gradual Abolition." Her appeal was the first public voice that dared to challenge the notion that abolition must, by its very nature, be gradual and measured. A few years later, one bloody war and the Emancipation Proclamation put slavery to rest.

Many suffered under slavery. Continuing to use hydrocarbons as energy is a death sentence for all. This is a call for immediate, not gradual transformation from illicit energy to renewable energy. Ground transportation can be solar powered. We must prove that it can be done and expand it rapidly to alleviate the suffering inherent in climate change. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meeting the Challenge

Notwithstanding glamorous advertisements of automobiles posed in pristine natural landscapes, there is nothing to celebrate about machines dominating the urban landscape, nor in aiding and abetting humanity’s nasty habit of digging up those toxic carbonaceous substances again to burn and spew those byproducts of Fire into the atmosphere. Climate change and resource depletion are potential threats of such enormous proportions that, in a world nearly 100% dependent on Fire for transportation, any solutions must have high leverage and produce immediate results.

Such high leverage options are available. Though implementation to date has been fragmented, cities are developing automated transportation networks integrated with solar Electricity, notably in Uppsala in Sweden, at 60º North (2/3 of the way from the equator to the North Pole) and in Silicon Valley. With research and engineering support from San Jose State University and the Presidio Graduate School, several Silicon Valley cities are organizing to create a sustainable alternative to automobile centered transportation, beyond Fire.

Given the risk of abrupt and devastating climate change, the incumbent carbon-dependent industries are in turn increasingly at risk of losing access to their asset portfolios (e.g., oil / gas / coal reserves). Governments will be forced to put out the Fire in order to alleviate ever-increasing and devastating climate instability. The movement will be slow at first. Then Mother Nature will “pick up the bat” and, in the face of looming unrelenting and unequivocal pressure from Her, the momentum for sweeping societal change will be unstoppable.

Can we stop the curtain from falling on the human saga? Now is the time for humanity to respond to the central challenge of the 21st Century.