Higherway logoHigherway Mission and Goals

Mission

Suburb to suburb quicker

Higherway's mission is to solve people's mobility problems in metropolitan areas around the world.

Goals

We are working toward these goals by designing the most efficient public transport system possible with present or near-term technology. The challenges for metropolitan areas around the world are:

  1. How do you move people from suburb to suburb and from where people live to where they work efficiently?
  2. How do people who don't have an automobile or motorcycle travel quickly in the metro area?

Our answer to the above questions is a personal automated transport/dualmode system. We are designing the system to achieve maximum market share of commuters with minimum life cycle cost. The costs of transportation alternatives should be evaluated in terms of:

  1. people's time in transit (figured at the minimum wage or higher for workers and including waiting times)
  2. costs to the environment
  3. accident costs
  4. acquisition costs (research and development, manufacturing, planning, engineering, construction, interest, real estate, utility easements, rerouting utilities)
  5. operation and maintenance costs.

The inspiration for the Higherway system is Douglas Malewicki's SkyTran, which owes a lot to the previous work by the Aerospace Corporation and J. Edward Anderson. There are some similarities to other systems, such as Pathfinder and CULOR, for example.

Who we are:

Higherway Transport Research is a private research and development company started by Tad Winiecki in January 1998. We are seeking partners to accomplish the mission stated above.

Tad was educated at Grinnell College (BA in Physics) and Rice University (MS in Space Science). He has five U.S. patents on motorcycle safety inventions and is registered as a Professional Engineer in Colorado. His main gift is solving difficult problems by the application of science, engineering and economics. See Savior safercycle (32k) as an example of Tad's previous work.

Project Status

The Higherway PAT/dualmode/automated cargo project is in the first phase, preliminary design and analysis. The current step for the project is to determine economical cargo height for the design of the Owl automated cargo vehicle (see Higherway Vehicles) and design of the automatic wheelchair restraints for the Pelican. Then we have to compare these requirements to see which will be the design driver for the whole system, the Pelican or the Owl. The next steps are:

  1. Aerodynamic studies for the Owl and Pelican. The cross wind load is a design driver for the guideways.
  2. Requirements for the guideway and bogie, including computer simulations
  3. Design the guideway and bogie, including motorwheels, bogie to bogie linking, obstacle detection, electronic steering control, etc.
  4. Develop technology for motorwheels and manufacturing.

Potential Customers

Potential customers for Higherway Transport Research include prospective transit system owners and manufacturers, and government agencies with some problem (such as traffic congestion, energy conservation, air pollution, foreign oil dependency, minimal environmental effect in nature preserve or national park) that PAT/dualmode could help solve.

Who should make a Higherway PAT/skyhook dualmode system?

Innovation in public transit has been very difficult in the past. It seems that each new technology has to buy out the old. To make personal automated transport happen we recommend a new corporation owned by a consortium consisting of:

  1. An electrical power company for their expertise in power transmission, working with multiple government agencies, financing utility construction, making holes in the ground and mounting poles in them.
  2. A telephone company for their expertise in communications, routing and billing with credit card pay telephones.
  3. Manufacturing companies which make highway guardrails, tapered steel poles, electric motors, electronic systems with sensors and actuators (such as robots), small airplane fuselages, automatic guided vehicles, automated material handling equipment, battery-powered minicars for expertise in keeping the manufacturing and life cycle cost down.
  4. Taxi cab and parcel delivery companies for expertise in moving people and parcels and to help co-opt possible opposition.
  5. PRT companies such as Taxi 2000, SkyTran, and Higherway Transport Research for engineering, simulations, research and development.
  6. A company like Bentley Systems which does software for rail layouts.

Besides bringing in expertise, a bigger consortium brings economic and political strength, which we need to overcome opposition from competing interests (highways and light rail, for example).

Dennis Manning's Plan

(Dennis Manning is a former President of the Advanced Transit Association and is not a Higherway Transport Research employee or owner)

Assuming one has nearly unlimited funding here is a sample road to PRT development.

First thing I would do is buy out the best available technologies, and they would have shares in the new company. I'd lock the inventors/developers of the various technologies in a room until they took the best each has to offer and come up with the best design possible.

Next I would build a test facility. Not only for the purpose of technically proving and debugging the system, but using the test facility primarily for the purpose of marketing. The test site would be located on the outskirts of a large urban area near a freeway that is routinely congested. The site would be designed something crudely along the lines of a theme park with dummy buildings and structures and stuff, where a number of PRT functions could be demonstrated. Things we talk about - inside buildings, ways to soften visual impact, some cargo vehicles, how retrofits could be handled, an auto free zone, park and ride stations, elevated and ground level stations, several station designs, a section showing how PRT can be 3-dimensional, several vehicle configurations, etc. One section of the network would be high speed and it would be run where it is easily seen from the congested freeway. Every day the stalled commuters would get to see the PRTs whizzing by. The PRT vehicles would be painted with a URL on their side, and with ads inviting them in for a free ride (Charge 'em if popular enough. Embelish the park a little with a fun section or thrill mode. It might begin to develop an early income stream. A hotel for all the out-of-town vistors would certainly make some money). Then I would produce a movie using the park as the focus. The movie would be distributed on the web, to the usual movie theaters, and to TV. News feeds to all the media would be used also.

Next I would begin contacting cities and inviting them to come take a ride. After they ride the system and get the benefit of a sales pitch I would invite them into a competition (auction) with all the other cities. The proposition would be: You come up with a layout design for your city and make a one shot bid for how much you will pay for the system. We will in turn build and operate the system and get the fare box (rates our perogative) and pay all operating and maintenance costs, and we will get the rights to build an equal amount of mileage on a layout of our choosing using city street rights of way. Then we select the winner(s) of the competition (highest bidder :-)) and build the PRT system(s).

Once the city's portion of the layout is operating. I would build an eqaul amount of guideway mileage on a layout of my design. Then I would go to the business community and begin selling them stations (choice of several designs). I would locate them wherever the businesses would like. I would build some stations solely to give access to customers, and to be civic-minded provide stations free to places like hospitals and libraries and high density low income areas.

Note that we can sell the stations at any price. Our profits derive from the increased ridership. Funds from stations are gravy. Same with selling the startup layouts. (Another Internet analogy - we are sold Internet access and then companies make even more money from our commercial activities. Companies like MCI/WorldCom are paying about $4,000 dollars for each end user by buying other companies that hold the network access. Then they turn around and charge us to be their customer)

I would form a separate company(s) and purchase real estate and build businesses around new stations. It would generate a free market for the price of a station. (This is analagous to the new business models generated by the Internet. These new PRT-based businesses would be physically different designs to take advantage of goods and customers being exchanged in new patterns)

Parallel to building the systems I would open up the technology so that suppliers of all sorts could join in production and engage in on-going improvement of and developing of value-adding features for PRT. More free market, and another Internet analogy.

Also, in parallel would be ramping up to build PRT in as many cities as possible on a global scale. The order of construction would be determined by attractiveness of each city's proposal. Over time the Feds would likely help less able cities to get PRT, in a similar manner that rural electrification went forward.

Underlying all this would be ongoing expansion of the PRT networks in the cities.

When cities in proximity to one another have a PRT network of sufficient size, high speed intercity connections would be the next wave. The gorilla grows.

I would estimate the capital to get all this underway at about $250 million and 3 years time. After that it finances itself, or Wall Street steps in to do the honors. By the way, $250 million was about what Disney paid for the single GM hot car ride attraction.

At the point of operating in the black or close to it, I would project the market cap of a public offering would be in the $5 billion range. Why? Because the Street judges by growth potential (nearly unlimited), by the strength of the competition (there isn't any), and by a demonstrated demand (the cities are lined up like ducks).

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This page last updated June 1, 2003