How Sky Pods Could Solve Traffic Problems

Soar above congestion

Key Takeaways

  • A new kind of sky pod could move passengers above traffic-clogged city streets. 
  • The company, uSky, is building pods that have music, mood lighting, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
  • Car manufacturer Hyundai is also developing a network of transport in the air.
A SkyPod from uSky Tansport

uSky Transport

Tech companies are trying to find new ways to ease your commute as traffic congestion worsens worldwide. 

One answer to car-clogged streets could be the recently unveiled sky pods in the United Arab Emirates. The driverless, high-speed pods are designed to zip high above roads while suspended from a metal track. Innovative solutions to traffic problems are increasingly necessary, experts say.

"Most major cities have reached a point where they cannot build their way out of congestion," Sean Laffey, an engineer at Kittelson & Associates, a transportation engineering and planning firm, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"With congestion, drivers spend more time in their cars, which has the added disadvantage of increasing emissions. New forms of transportation offer the opportunity to move with the convenience of a car but without using a car, which reduces vehicle demand, congestion, and emissions."

Pod People Movers

The pods in the United Arab Emirates are a long way from the usual dreary city buses. They have music, mood lighting, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Each pod can carry up to four passengers. 

The pod network is only in a test phase, but uSky, the company behind the project, says it could carry up to 10,000 passengers per hour once completed. Pods can travel up to 93 miles per hour. 

"uSky vehicles moving above the ground on a unique-design elevated overpass ensure a number of advantages: optimized aerodynamics, increased speed, unprecedented safety, rational use of land and resources, and minimized environmental harm caused by transport," Anatoli Unitsky, the company’s founder, writes on its website.

"In addition, the cost of construction and operation is significantly lower compared to existing transport solutions."

The uSky pods are part of a growing interest in Urban Aerial Mobility (UAM), which refers to carrying passengers or cargo by air within urban and suburban areas. Auto manufacturer Hyundai also is developing a network of transport in the air. Hyundai’s concept includes flying cars, referred to as Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs), purpose-built ground-based vehicles (PBVs), and a hub, which would link air-based vehicles, ground-based vehicles, and their passengers. 

"Based on three interconnected mobility solutions, Hyundai aims to free future cities and people from the constraints of time and distance and allow them to inject more opportunities into their day-to-day lives," according to the Hyundai urban air mobility website.

Laffey said that Sky vehicles could bring significant changes to the transportation sector through aerial vehicles moving cargo and passengers. 

"Governments are actively trying to fight congestion by implementing policies like congestion charges, curb space charges, and enforcing parking fines," he added. "Companies may look towards UAM and aerial vehicles to avoid urban congestion and decrease operating costs by avoiding fines for ground transportation vehicles."

Pandemic Puts Spotlight on Travel

The pandemic is boosting efforts to rethink current means of public transportation as a way to reduce pollution and traffic, Andy Taylor, a senior director at the firm Cubic Transportation Systems, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Future transportation - SkyPod - from uSky Tranport.

uSky Tranport

"Transit agencies should start taking steps now to integrate van, private car, shuttle, and even bike/scooter share services with public transit under one payment method for a seamless journey from the first to the last mile," he added. 

Some of the new transport options might not need drivers. Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, is testing a self-driving public shuttle. Operating since October, the shuttle gives free rides and demonstrates the possibilities offered by autonomous vehicles.

Electric vehicles are also increasing in popularity. According to one study, electric car sales in May reached 53,779 units, representing a 19.2% increase over April 2021. 

Bikes powered by electricity also are selling well. 

"Electrification will make simple, lightweight, low-powered two-wheelers accessible and safe for a wider audience than ever,"  Zach Schieffelin, the founder of e-bike company Civilized Cycles, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"The reductions in noise, mass, emissions, and complexity mean these platforms compete with cars and will benefit entire communities, not just users."

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