Cities around the world are grappling with traffic congestion, with some turning to electric scooters for relief and others to AI-enabled traffic lights. However, one startup believes that building a network of driverless high-speed pods suspended from a steel track around cities is the answer. uSky Transport, based in Belarus, launched a 400-meter test line in Sharjah. Complete with mood lighting, lounge music, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the electrically powered pods are designed to seem like a first-class aircraft suite. The vehicle can accommodate up to four passengers at a time with two comfortable armchairs and two foldable seats.
According to uSky, a fully deployed network could serve 10,000 passengers per hour, with cars capable of travelling up to 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour — though they can’t achieve their top speed on the test track for safety reasons. The business has also created a similar technology for transporting cargo containers, which can carry up to 48 tonnes at speeds of up to 90 kilometres per hour (56 miles).
Sky pods, or transportation pods that fly above the ground, are sometimes compared to monorails or cable cars. According to Stephanie Haag, associate partner at McKinsey & Company, they provide more freedom. Despite the fact that she warns that careful design is required to avoid congestion in a busy city-wide network, Haag believes it might still be widely adopted. In her opinion, pods are better suited to countries with underdeveloped public transportation and a rising need for mobility options. It will, however, not be a solution unto itself, and instead will simply be one of the levers through which public planners can move to decongest our cities.
Future plans for expansion
uSky aims to install a 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) line in Sharjah later this year, allowing the passenger pod to travel at higher speeds for the first time. To the east of the emirate, the business wants to build a line through the seaside town of Khor Fakkan. According to uSky CEO Hussain Al Mahmoudi, sky pods have the potential to help Sharjah achieve its goal of being a sustainable, technological hub.
According to Oleg Zaretskiy, CEO, uSky Transport, uSky Transport wants to complete its first commercial contract in Sharjah before the end of the year. He also claims that the corporation is exploring new markets outside of the UAE, such as India and Pakistan. Who knows, perhaps we could all be zipping around in driverless pods, leaving our traffic woes behind, or below, us.