A magic magnet bus is being tested in Northern California and is expected to save the bus company fuel and passengers time in loading and unloading. The 60-foot AC Transit magnetic research bus made a successful drive in San Leandro, CA along E. 14th Street recently.
Engineers at UC Berkeley in the California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) program developed the magnetic bus and guidance system. The system involves spacing a procession of magnets a few feet apart along the pavement and letting the bus follow them on “auto pilot”.
Even though the bus driver took a hands-off approach he still had control of braking and acceleration. Computers onboard this magnet bus read the road sensors and then controlled the route of the bus including turns. Often referred to as “smart car” technology this smart bus technology put the vehicle within centimeters of its desired destination.
This means the route that the bus travels is more predictable than with human steering. With predictability comes less fuel used on the route along with quicker passenger load and unload times, which means less fuel, less emissions and happier customers.
One of the goals of this test was a first step towards competing with light rail. The scientists theorize the magnetic buses could travel the freeways at 60 mph and because they can start and stop on a dime and in unison, there could be a procession of buses during peak travel times that would emulate light rail trains.