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Draft: Why Highspeed Rail is not for U.S.

California and other states have begun to invest in high-speed rail systems to reduce connection and increase transit efficiencies and it looks like the US could catch up to Europe, China and Japan if funding is provided for these massive projects.  Highs-peed rail isn’t actually bad, but there is something much better for the USA.

After seeing Burt Rutan on Big Think the concept of creating a network of personal ‘air-taxis’ to fill the inter-city transit needs of the country feels like a really big idea indeed.  The idea of small aircraft with very good fuel economy and comparable true costs of operating a car is so compelling because it means much shorter transit times, a trillion dollar cost avoidance in interstate highway repairs and the volume production required to make small air-frames very affordable for a number of applications.

Light air for inter-city transit is also a model that the US is uniquely positioned to create because of our mature air traffic control system, low corruption, good safety regulations and top research institutions for avionics.  As a result of building this system the US will have created technology that can help Africa, South America, Inda and even China avoid the costs associated with building a robust interstate highway OR high speed rail.  For the environmentalist/ urbanist this new approach to transit provides a more compelling experience than the car thus providing the social and economic pressure needed to quickly urbanize the US and begin the process of remediation the suburbs.

Getting the conversation started with Scaled Composites:

Mr. Rutan & Team,

I had an idea that I would like to contribute to the very inspired idea of transitioning to a taxi model instead of the present bigger is better business model of air travel.  I would like to contribute some ideas if I can.

Among the problems that require breakthroughs, perhaps one of the most challenging is finding enough qualified pilots.  One solution to this that the US is uniquely prepared to develop is to use “virtual pilots” the way that UAVs are piloted.  In this way, virtual pilots could work from locals across the country providing logistical support and taking control of the aircraft virtually.  This model also improves the economics of flight by freeing space in the cockpit.

One interesting consequence of virtual pilots is that pilot expertise can be teared such that more experienced pilots take control only in dangerous weather or during takeoff and landing while less skilled pilots provide service at other times.  Hospitals use this model.  Surely hospitals are as risky as aviation is.

I am presently working as a technology broker and I would love to assist in the development of the above concept.  Please let me know if you would be interested in a more detailed proposal.

One Comment

  1. admin wrote:

    The problem with grownd based travel is that you need scale to justify building infrastructure. You get high efficencies and speeds but at the expense of flexability and you had to spend loads of money doing so. Air taxis require no new physical infrastructure other than the ever-expanding IT requirements.

    Friday, August 13, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

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