Browse Publications Technical Papers 2000-01-0018
2000-03-06

PAU System A New Concept to Achieve Sustainability in Passenger Transportation 2000-01-0018

The current transportation system is generally regarded as unsustainable. The significant contribution of the transport sector to the degradation of urban air quality, threat of climate change, dependence on nonrenewable resources, and negative societal effects all lead to this conclusion. Strategies that have been proposed to try to solve the transportation problem include Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) as well as economic and other incentives for more sustainable travel modes, vehicles, and patterns. Unfortunately, the most promising strategies involve losses of the comfort, convenience, and personalized service benefits currently provided by passenger cars. This paper presents a technology-based concept for a sustainable passenger transportation system of the future.
The building block of the system is a small, electrically propelled pod. We call this the Personal Automobile Unit (PAU). By itself, the PAU would be suitable for local trips on low-speed roadways. One of the great benefits of the PAU is that it would generate rather than constrain transportation choices. They could be mechanically and electronically linked together for local family trips or placed onto freeway-capable platforms to achieve today's levels of automotive freedom. Since the vehicles are small, they could even be driven onto PAU transit vehicles that would provide medium- to long-distance, fixed-route transport services at high speeds. Especially when combined with ITS technologies, this option would provide tremendous congestion reduction opportunities as well as the air quality benefits that are known to come with electric vehicle systems.
This paper will explore the potential of the concept of a transportation system based on the PAU, and begin to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges associated with this transportation model.

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