Friday, November 23, 2018

Research Questions for Solar-Powered Automated Transportation

Research Questions
Solar Powered Automated Rapid Transit Ascendant Networks

Burford Furman 

The following sections list research questions to be answered with regard to solar powered automated rapid transit ascendant networks (“SPARTAN”). The questions are by no means exhaustive and have not been prioritized. The list is intended to spark discussion, thinking, and ultimately work that will hasten development of this new form of urban transportation. Comments, edits, and inputs are welcomed.
* Denotes research questions that are of high priority

Urban/Transportation Planning (UTP)
UTP 1.     What factors (positive and negative) would make a compelling case for people to travel relatively short distances (less than 30 min travel time) using a mode other than by automobile? E.g., gas prices go beyond $X/gal; if it were less expensive (overall) to not own a car; 'better' quality of travel (more relaxing, able to use the travel time to do something beside concentrate on driving, etc.), etc.
UTP 2.     In which types of cities (or areas within cities) does an ATN make sense (general characteristics, in order to compile a "short list" of cities and areas)?
UTP 3.     How can ATN be integrated into the urban fabric (stations, guideways, etc.)?
UTP 4.     How can ATN be integrated into the existing transit infrastructure?
UTP 5.     What is the impact on ATN usage to societal well-being?
UTP 6.     What modeling and planning tools are available to design solar powered ATN systems that can accurately predict ridership, how to manage vehicles, etc?
UTP 7.     What policies need to be crafted or modified to accommodate ATN as a new mode of transportation?
UTP 8.     What standards apply, need modification, or need to be crafted to the design, maintenance, safety, and operation of ATN systems?
UTP 9.     How would introduction of ATN affect transit mode split and car ownership?
UTP 10.  How could one utilize SUMO, Podaris, and Encitra modeling tools to develop a guideway network in their locale?
UTP 11.   What is the legal framework for acquiring ‘air rights’, sidewalk rights, station location rights, and in-building station rights? Address the financial, property ownership, and legal aspects.
UTP 12.   What incentives are there for property owners to think about station location rights?

Engineering (ENG: (A)acoustics, (Con)controls, (Dy)dynamics, (E)electrical/electronics), (H)Hardware, (Hum)human factors/ergonomics, (M)Metrics, (Mfg)manufacturing, (S)safety, (SW)software, (Sys)systems
ENG_A 1.    What are the acoustics of suspended ATN vehicles in an urban environment, and how do they compare to existing modes of transportation? What are the major causes of noise, and how can they be mitigated?
*ENG_A 2.   What will the acoustics be like for suspended ATN vehicles, especially when traversing discontinuities in the guideway (switches, joints, etc.)?
ENG_Con 1. What vehicle control strategies are optimal for maximizing throughput?
ENG_Con 2. What sensors are needed to control and accurately track the position of vehicles?
ENG_Dy 1.    What are the dynamics associated with a suspended vehicle’s travel over elevated guideways, and particularly when traversing curves?
ENG_Dy 2.    What are the limits of stiffness/deflection, etc. that lead to acceptable ride quality?
ENG_Dy 3.    How will ATN guideways and structures respond to earthquakes?
ENG_Dy 4.    What forces will act on riders, and how can they be handled in curves?
ENG_Dy 5.    What amount of deflection of a guideway is allowable between support columns,
             so that passengers will not experience motion-sickness?
ENG_Dy 6.    How must suspended ATN vehicles be designed, so that ride quality is acceptable 
 for riders?
*ENG_Dy 7.  How can wind loads be handled?
ENG_Dy 8. What forces will arise on bogie components and guideway structures as an ATN vehicle traverses a diverge, merge, or turn?
ENG_Dy 9. What is the maximum speed that a vehicle can take a turn?
ENG_Dy 10. How should turns/curves be designed to withstand dynamic forces and minimize passenger discomfort?
*ENG_E 1.  What is the optimal approach or combination of methods for powering bogies (e.g., wayside power, on-board batteries, ultra-capacitors, AC/DC, linear motors in track, etc.)?
*ENG_E 2.  What is the best approach to powering ATN with solar (e.g., solar PV on top of guideway direct to DC buss, CSP (concentrating solar power to steam), solar to compressed air for storage, solar PV + AC grid tie, mix of batteries and/or supercapacitors)?
ENG_E 3.   What is the optimal approach for storage of collected PV energy?
ENG_E 4.   What is the average number of vehicle-km/day/km of guideway that can be fully powered with a solar array 1m (2m, 3m, 4m) in width? (Determine by analysis and confirm by testing)
ENG_H 1.    How can right angle (90°) guideway curves be designed and supported within a typical city center (without pillars obstructing streets)?
ENG_H 2.    How should sections of guideways be connected (design of joints)?
ENG_H 3.    How should guideways be connected to support columns?
ENG_H 4.    What is the optimal design for guideway support columns, taking into consideration, strength, cost, ease of fabrication, and ease of maintenance?
ENG_H 5.    How should guideway supports be designed, so they can handle the loads of vehicles, wind, snow, seismic events, and potential crashes by vehicles. Is there a general footing design that could be mostly manufactured off-site and rapidly deployed? How much space would be required to install a footing?
ENG_H 6.    How should a suspension system between the bogie and suspended vehicle be designed to compensate for disturbance motions of a vehicle and allow for adjustments of position in stations?
ENG_H 7.    What are the dimensions and configuration of the guideway for a switching or merge section? What is the minimum length of off-ramps and on-ramps for adequate rider acceleration-deceleration comfort?
ENG_H 8.    What is the temperature profile within the guideway and how does it change over a 24 hr cycle (modeling+simulation AND experimental investigations)?
ENG_H 9.    What kind of thermal expansion must be accommodated, and how will it be accomplished?
ENG_H 10. Which elements of the guideway and bogie will have the most rapid wear, and how will these elements be maintained or replaced?
ENG_Mfg 1. How can guideway elements be mass produced to minimize cost?
*ENG_Hum 1.   How can an ATN station be designed, so that it is obvious to potential riders who are non-technical, visitors who are unfamiliar with ATN, the visually impaired, etc., how one schedules, pays for, and uses a fully automated vehicle?
ENG_Hum 2.   What are the best approaches for riders to know which vehicle is 'theirs' if multiple people are waiting at a station?
ENG_Hum 3.   How might rider aggregation be handled to encourage more than single occupants?
ENG_Hum 4.   What personnel, procedures and physical security measures and are needed to provide safety for riders and prevent vandalism or other destructive activities?
ENG_M 1.    What ATN metrics should be accounted for? Such as XX Watt/Kilometer, XX Track Weight / Kilometer, etc.
ENG_M 2.    What metrics should be used to compare solar-powered ATN to other modes of transportation?
ENG_S 1.        Should the brick wall stop criteria apply to ATN? What is the alternative?
ENG_S 2.         What minimum vehicle headways are 'safe'?
ENG_S 3.     How can suspended vehicles on elevated guideways be designed and proven to be 'safe'?
ENG_S 4.     How can suspended ATN vehicles or an ATN network be designed, so that medical and other emergencies can be addressed?
ENG_S 5.     What are potential failure modes and how can they be mitigated?
ENG_S 6.     How can a fully automated transportation system be made 'secure' in terms of hacking, disruption from cyber-attack, or other nefarious/malicious/vandalism actions?
ENG_S 7.   How can passengers safely egress from a vehicle in the event of an emergency, and especially if the vehicle is not at a station and stops?
ENG_SW 1.    What kind of mobile app is needed for users to interact/schedule/pay for transit on ATN?
ENG_SW 2.   What kind of in-station kiosk software is needed in stations?
ENG_SW 3.   What interface software is needed between mobile or station UIs and vehicle control?
ENG_SW 4.   What kind of system-wide software is needed to control vehicles with passengers and empty?
ENG_SW 4.   What software security systems are needed to authenticate riders, provide safety, privacy, and operating security? 
ENG_Sys 1.      How can ATN scale from modest to city-wide coverage?
ENG_Sys 2.      How can ATN systems be designed to handle rush hour or large pulse demand?
ENG_Sys 3.      What is the optimal size for an ATN vehicle?
ENG_Sys 4.      How can models of ATN performance be verified and calibrated?
ENG_Sys 5.      How should empty vehicles be handled in a full ATN system?
ENG_Sys 6.      How can ATN networks interface between cities or different guideway designs?
ENG_Sys 7.      How can vehicles be allocated optimally in a full ATN system?
ENG_Sys 8.      What is the formula given the number of vehicles that a station could have waiting or service at any time?
ENG_Sys 9.      How should maintenance depots be designed? Where should they be placed?
ENG_Sys 10.   How would a disabled vehicle impact network operation?
ENG_Sys 11.   What is the process for handling vehicles which become disabled somewhere along a section of guideway?

Environmental (ENV)
ENV 1.   What are the environmental impacts of solar powered ATN (“cradle-to-cradle” -- in the supply chain, during construction, while in operation, and upon decommissioning)? How can these impacts be mitigated?
ENV 2.   How can the visual impact of elevated solar powered ATN be minimized and sensitively integrated into the urban fabric? [See IDA 1.]
ENV 3.  How does solar powered ATN compare to other modes of public transit (e.g., capital cost, operating cost, safety, ride quality, convenience, accessibility, congestion, noise, air pollution, energy usage, rolling resistance, aerodynamic drag, weight, space utilization, consumption of materials for construction, fleet size, utilization factor, equipment maintenance, etc.)? Provide evidence and calculations that quantify these performance metrics.

Industrial Design/Architecture (IDA)
IDA 1.        What can be done to minimize 'visual intrusion' and maximize visual appeal for elevated ATN infrastructure? [See ENV 2.]
IDA 2.        How could a ubiquitous elevated infrastructure such as proposed by solar powered ATN enthusiasts be designed, so as not to be rejected out of hand or even be considered 'attractive' by the public?
IDA 3.       How should an ATN vehicle be designed to balance needs for safety, rider comfort, minimizing weight, minimizing drag, minimizing cost?
IDA 4.       What are the dimensions of the 'foot print' for an ATN station, especially one that comes down to ground level? Consider stairs, elevators, and ramp-down to grade.
IDA 5.       How can stations be designed to be visually appealing, functional, and safe?
IDA 6.       How can ATN be integrated into the urban fabric?
IDA 7.       What new opportunities does ATN enable for urban design and architecture? For example, if an ATN station can be integrated right into a building or residential complex, how might this free land that would otherwise be devoted to streets or parking or lead to more human-friendly living areas?

Construction/Manufacturing (CON)
CON 1.   Is there a compelling business case to be made for solar powered ATN in an urban environment? If so, what factors must be in place to make the case?
CON 2.   What should the workflow be to install an ATN system in an existing urban area, so as to minimize disruption to existing transportation and maximize speed of installation?

Bus 1.     Is there a compelling business case to be made for solar powered ATN in an urban environment? If so, what factors must be in place to make the case?
Bus 2.     What existing design, build, own, operate, maintain, transfer (“DBOOMT”) models can be mimicked to make ATN successful?
Bus 3.      What new industries would be required or how might ATN affect existing industries to supply materials and technology to build out and operate ATN networks?
Bus 4.      What conditions are ideal and 'non-ideal' conditions for ATN? How does ATN perform under these conditions?
Bus 5.      How should fare pricing be structured?
Bus 6.      How could ATN vehicles or spare capacity be used to transport other than people in an urban area (such as at night)?
Bus 7.      What are realistic costs of ATN per unit length (e.g., $/km)?
Bus 8.      How can ATN be successfully financed?
Bus 9.   How can a marketing plan to reach mayors of major cities around the world be developed?
Bus 10. What would it cost to replicate the service provided by the Oakland Airport (OAK) Shuttle Train (, but instead with an ATN system?

OTH 1.      What are potential 'unintended consequences' of ATN?
OTH 2.       How can the public be educated about ATN?
OTH 3.       How might ATN infrastructure be useful for other purposes, such as wiring and piping?
OTH 4.       How could a 'reference' design for ATN be made? What elements could become part of a reference standard?
OTH 5.       What research and development has been done from the UMTA AGT programs of the 1970s?
OTH 6.       What research has been done on ATN by Swedish researchers since the 1970s?
OTH 7.     What lessons have been learned from the existing ATN installations (e.g., Morgantown, Rivium, Masdar City, Heathrow, Suncheon Bay)