Google-Backed Pedal-Powered Pod Cars Coming to a City Near You?

Posted On Mon, December 15, 2014 By

Posted On Mon, December 15, 2014 By In Technology, Transportation, Urban Design

JPods, East River Skyway, an expanding Citi Bike—if one thing is clear, New York City’s rapidly growing population has gotten a lot of people worried about how our already taxed infrastructure is going to account for all of these new bodies. The latest transportation idea to come out of the woodwork is not necessarily a new one, but it’s one that’s recently found a new boost thanks to interest and funding provided by everyone’s favorite search giant: Google. Called “SkySMART,” this new idea for mobility utilizes a series of sun- and pedal-powered pods that run along an elevated rail high above city traffic.

shweeb skysmart pedal-powered pod

The vision concept comes courtesy of a Canadian company named Shweeb, which is currently working on their first North American prototype. The company won $1 million in Google’s 10^100 competition back in 2010 for their idea and used the cash to develop their proposal. Fast forward four years and Shweeb is now gearing up to roll out SkySMART in a real-world setting.

So how does it work? The pods run along a rail, or “guideways,” up to 80 feet in the air. Unlike the subway or bus, users can get on and off with ease without waiting on a platform. As a result, the system can move up to 10,000 people per hour. The pods will come in various sizes able to hold two, five, or 12 people, and can also tow cargo.

Those in less than fine form need not fear exclusion, the SkySMART will still run without your help. A photovoltaic system keeps the pods going even when passengers’ knees are locked. But as an incentive for those who decide to pedal, they’ll get a discount on their ride in addition to helping the pod to travel six miles an hour faster. The guideways themselves will also carry power lines and cables for the city.


Google’s Mountain View campus will be one of the first to build a track and the system will use use tech from Google’s robocars to track the pods. Shweeb also plans to build a SkySMART demo site at Niagara Falls next year to show the world its capabilities. Word is that 22 other sites are in line to get a rail as well.

Coming in at 30% less than other mass transit infrastructure, and being totally green to boot, the company calls it the “most sustainable form of public transit” for cities. But what do you think? Can you see SkySMART making the rounds in a city like Manhattan? If you’re a believer, you can help fund the project here.

[Via Fast Company]

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