The Beijing Straddle Bus Might Have to Wait for Self-Driving Cars

Asking more of human drivers doesn't always go so well.

Collective Evolution

A Beijing-based company is working to perfect and prototype a so-called “straddle bus.” The straddle bus, as its name suggests, straddles and therefore sits above the road, which frees up space for passengers and even more space for cars underneath. And it’s powered by electricity.

As you watch the video and understand the concept, you’ll probably first acknowledge that it’s a pretty brilliant idea. It’s the future’s tram, except it can travel faster and can allegedly hold up to 1,400 travelers. (Passengers would hypothetically enter the bus by elevator at interspersed stations.) It frees up road space for cars — ever more cars — which, in China, is a million- if not billion-dollar notion. Traffic jams are no longer problematic. On top of all that, the straddle bus just looks cool.

You’ll next acknowledge that it’s pretty unfeasible. The straddle bus would need to be tall enough to straddle trucks and SUVs with roof cargo, and the taller this vehicle gets, the less stable it becomes. If one errant driver were to hit one of the bus’s legs — either by straying in front of it or crashing into the side — a thousand passengers would, at best, be flung from their seats.

These issues, and others, make the project unrealistic at this moment. Down the line, though, things could change: It’s not hard to envision a self-driving car fleet communicating and working in conjunction with the straddle bus. Humans continue to create technology that, they hope, will phase out humans.