There are so many bold, fresh, and plain old wacky ideas out there when it comes to alternative forms of transportation. I love to see the creative ideas people come up with for new ways to get around, though in truth, 99 out of 100 of these ideas will never catch on. Many of them won't even make the transition from idea to working concept. However, there are a handful that manage to break out, and sometimes a dark horse can end up a surprise winner.
Take the Shweeb for example. I wrote about this pedal-powered-pod last summer, when it was still just a racetrack/ride in New Zealand. Now, however, the Shweeb has been awarded $1 million from Google to produce a working prototype for public use. But will the public get on board?
First off, yes, I know in my earlier post, I spelled Shweeb wrong (my bad). My lack-of-attention aside, this is a pretty big deal for the small company, who entered Google's 10^100 contest, which sought to reward five good ideas with seed money to get the projects off the ground. Other winners include the Kahn Academy, which wants to provide educational content online for free, and Public.Resource.Org, which wants to make the government more transparent. Amongst that kind of company, the Shweeb… really stands out.
The idea started as a simple ride where you raced an opponent along a track in these enclosed pods via a bike-like pedal system. As far as a ride goes, it sounds fun, but as a public transportation option, it will certainly have some obstacles to overcome. For one, sweaty people. Imagine waiting at a Shweeb station, and the next pod that pulls up, a large, sweaty, gross dude gets out. I'm a pretty gross dude myself, but that would give me cause to reconsider walking to my destination.
You also have to build the railway system. Since it is human powered, it won't need any sort of electrical lines and whatnot, but it won't exactly be unobtrusive either. The one benefit I see to this is that since there is no engine, the pods will be pretty light, and perhaps could be mated to the side of buildings without too much effort and what not. And while it might be great for getting around alone, what if you're with a whole group of friends? Will there be multi-Shweebs? Plenty of questions remain about the viability of this project, but Google has seen fit to give them a million bucks to build a prototype in an urban setting.
Could you see yourself using this in lieu of a bike, or short bus trip?