High-tech highways: ‘Hands-free,’ ‘pavement-powered’ vehicle platforms?

In “CATS: ‘Contactless,’ energy-storage features give transit an edge,” I wrote: “First, with the creation of a ‘contactless,’ catenary-free system, not only is it now possible for electrical propulsion power to be provided to fixed-guideway transit networks minus the overhead electrical catenary infrastructure, but a system along these lines can also provide for a more aesthetic system appearance at the same time.”

Okay now I’m thinking, what if automobiles operating on specialized driving platforms could be powered this same way? Impossible, impractical, you say? Or maybe you’re thinking, why even bother?

If not that, you might be thinking how something like this approach could even work, that is, without some sort of fixed-guideway platform being in place.

As in the case of the “contactless” transit propulsion system, likewise, the motor vehicle could derive its propulsion power from energized cables placed in the roadway pavement with transfer of electrical energy from cables to vehicles all via a pick-up coil placed on the underside of the motor vehicle in question. (For more, see: “CATS: ‘Contactless,’ energy-storage features give transit an edge” and the press release “Bombardier and Stadtwerke Augsburg to Pilot PRIMOVE Catenary-Free and Contactless Tramway System Technology”).

MUTCD_R6-3.svg[2]Carrying this one step farther, at its very basic, consider a two-lane roadway application (one lane for pavement-powered vehicles moving in one direction and the other for pavement-powered vehicles moving opposite to those in the first lane).

And what kinds of provisions could there be to ensure that vehicles stayed in their respective lanes? How can this be guaranteed?

Vehicle-mounted sensors working in conjunction with lane-painted lines would prevent vehicle drift as vehicles would always be “lane-centered,” therefore making vehicle drift outside the lane of travel an impossibility.

Furthermore, as long as each vehicle stayed in its respective lane and therefore did not “stray,” as it were, power to the vehicle is maintained, that is, while the vehicle is in autonomous operational mode.

But what about vehicles entering and exiting the completely pavement-powered platform? How could this be achieved?

For instance, at locations where turning onto an intersecting road is permitted, provisions for this could be incorporated into infrastructure design.

Meanwhile, to assure proper separation of vehicles traveling in the same direction of travel, there could be any of a number of control systems in place. System safety is therefore ensured.

But the real beauty of this type of operation is such that for vehicles operating fully automatically or “contactlessly,” think a total elimination of emissions. Not just that, but while in transit on the pavement-powered part of the roadway, motor vehicle onboard batteries could either get fully or partially charged, the power, of course, provided as a result of electricity transfer courtesy of the cable/pick-up-coil pairing. This would be done expressly so that when non-pavement-powered motor vehicle operation is called for, onboard batteries would have already gotten a recharging.

Too far-fetched of an idea?

My answer to this is that if this type of system is applicable to mass transit networks, there is every reason to believe a provision of this kind could also be adaptable to non-mass transit transportation platforms too.

– Alan Kandel