skyTran artist rendering. skyTran artist rendering. skyTran artist rendering. (Photo: skyTran)

Personal transit pods planned for Israeli tech hub

City of Herzliya envisions a magnetic-levitation system as the next generation of city transit.

Imagine a future where, instead of hailing a taxi, a personal, driverless, electric, levitating "pod" suspended from an elevated rail whizzes to your location at your command and transports you to your destination.

It's not your imagination. Around the world, municipalities are trying to overcome transportation problems – gridlock, crackling infrastructure, insufficient parking – and are warming up to the concept of a lightweight, environmentally friendly, totally automated and integrated skyway network as a viable alternative. 

California-based SkyTran, a partner of NASA and a pioneer in urban mobility solutions, said the change is long overdue. The coastal city of Herzliya, Israel, just announced a plan to implement SkyTran's elevated, magnetic-levitation (Maglev) rail system that will connect the city's rail station to its marina. The benefits are far-reaching and tangible – fast, inexpensive, automated and personal – and it could one day be the best way to get around.

An artist rendering shows the SkyTran system proposed for Tel Aviv. (Photo: SkyTran)

Herzliya is a prime spot for the program because it's considered a tech startup hub. It's also a neighbor to Tel Aviv, where SkyTran announced last year it would launch a similar test program on the campus of Israel Aerospace Industries. SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders said the first phase of that project is on track for completion by the end of 2015. In the first phase, the SkyTran pods will travel up to 70 mph, but eventually, pods will be capable of traveling twice as fast.

An artist rendering of a skyTran pod.An artist rendering of a SkyTran pod. (Photo: SkyTran)

In addition to the projects in multiple cities in Israel, Sanders said the company is also working with municipalities in Europe and India.

So why are so many cities interested in this futuristic, yet surprisingly simple, technology? 

"Anywhere that has traffic, there's simply no other alternative," Sanders, who splits his time between SkyTran's offices in California and Israel, told From The Grapevine. "You're either going to build a subway that costs billions of dollars and takes decades of work, or you're going to have to build above traffic. There's simply no more room on the surface for additional transportation systems."

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