by futurist consultant Ersan Seer


BiModal Glideway May Be a Better Alternative to Google’s Driverless Cars

BiModal Glideway reached out to me after I posted a 6-article series on driverless cars. I’m glad they did.

BiModal Glideway, in a nutshell, is a proposed “multi-modal” transportation, which would “allow specially designed automobiles and small trucks and buses to enter a separate high speed rail system.” They are currently garnering financial and social support for their idea.

BMG has my full public support. I found BMG’s vision of the near future to be compelling and plausible. Google can’t be the only big players in town. 😉


Ersan Seer: Alright, Chris, let’s get started. As I read through BiModal Glideway’s website, it hit me that you guys have some great ideas.

Tell me, have you looked at the articles I wrote recently on driverless cars?

Chris @ BMG: Yes, that’s how we found you.

Ersan Seer: Great. So, readers of those articles tend to be skeptical. Resistant to new kinds of cars. And I understand why—it’s because my visions are quite far ahead. There’s a big gap between “then” and “now”.

And as I looked through BiModal Glideway’s website, it occurred to me that your system is a very plausible middle ground, one which might bridge the present day with my far-ahead visions.

It also occurred to me that we currently have the technology to make BiModal Glideway a reality. Have you guys come to the same conclusion?

Chris @ BMG: Yes, exactly that. When my Dad first came up with this in the 60s, there were artist’s sketches back when I was a kid in the 60s envisioning BiModal Glideway. It looked pretty science fictiony. But now, our “bimodal” approach is the most logical solution to our current transportation challenges.

There’s a community of innovators and inventors that have various dual mode solutions. As I’ve looked at them, I still think BiModal’s is the best one based on its vertical switching system. But regardless, a dual mode solution will be in our future, because dual mode solutions combine the high-speed, super safe, user-free benefits of rail transport, with the autonomy of driving your own car.

Ersan Seer: Yeah.

Chris @ BMG: To compare, Google’s driverless cars aren’t “multi-modal”. They don’t solve for anything except for safety, which is important, but only one of the advantages dual mode systems have. They could solve for traffic problems if we made them dual mode, specifically by creating a separate lane for high-speed caravanning—which, for safety reasons, will need to be vertically separated. Which means there will still need to be a major infrastructure investment, and you have not made a greener technology nor reduced dependence on oil.

Ersan Seer: True. Google’s cars in their current state do seem one-dimensional.

You know, about that concept, “multi-modal”… I didn’t there was an industry word for it. But as I created my series on driverless cars, I came to the same conclusion that cars would double as high-speed transport.

It seems to me that “multi-modal” will become a standard.

Chris @ BMG: Mm hmm.

Ersan Seer: I was inspired by ‘vactrain’ technology—which is mag lev + a vacuum propelling cars at high-speed. I imagine a premium service, probably pricey initially, where people would line up and wait 15 minutes before popping into a high-speed tube and travel to their offices 100-200 miles away.

Whether it’s vactrains or glideways, multimodal transportation is kind of the next logical step in the evolution of HOV lanes. We already have a mechanism in place which caters to the psychology of getting ahead everyone else in traffic.

Chris @ BMG: Exactly.

Ersan Seer: So, will there be an upgrade of existing cars, or will “bi-modal” cars have to be built from scratch?

Chris @ BMG: They would have to be new cars. It would be too major of a modification.

In the Bay area, where I am, it’s brutal commuting conditions. In certain corridors, it’s bumper-to-bumper for 30 miles. So that would be the kind of place you’d put the first Glideway.

When people stuck down there in the 5-mile-an-hour-for-30-miles traffic look up and see people zipping by at more than 100mph, I think there will be a huge interest in getting BiModal cars.

Ersan Seer: Absolutely. And the cost? Will they be prohibitively expensive for most people?

Chris @ BMG: Well, for the people that couldn’t afford them, we would have the equivalent of busses. So everybody could immediately take advantage of this technology whether they owned their own BiModal car or not.

Ersan Seer: Great idea. And didn’t you also envision a third usage for BiModal Glideway?

Chris @ BMG: Right—we also envisioned that BiModal Glideway driverless vehicles can be used for freight transit.

Ersan Seer: Yeah, I found that intriguing. Freight transit may be what gets BiModal Glideway or a similar concept off the ground. Your biggest investors at first may be delivery companies!

Chris @ BMG: That’s an interesting angle that I hadn’t thought of. It could well be.

Ersan Seer: Here’s my last question. We have the technology to make this a reality—but it hasn’t been implemented yet. Why not? What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Chris @ BMG: It’s been about two years since we brought this idea out. The giant challenge has been that it’s too big of an idea for anybody to say, “I can do something with that.”

We’ve approached politicians, the department of transportation, government research groups, universities, venture capitalists. Everybody likes the idea. Everybody says, “Oh, that’s a great idea, I wish we had that,” but so far we haven’t received any grants.

One of the groups we applied to in the government for a grant said, “This is just too far out in the future. We can only put money into stuff that has immediately realizeable value.” And this really would need to be a government-corporate joint venture.

Ersan Seer: Well, Chris, that’s a shame.

I think the government is wrong about how far out it is. They’re just a slow-to-react behemoth. I’m not complaining – I am quite accepting of the fact that government is slow.

I just don’t think they realize how close we are to a transportation revolution. Google knows it. Ford knows it. The government doesn’t.

Yes, driverless cars as I envisioned them are at least a couple decades away. But I think your multi-modal transportation is right around the corner. Maybe 5-15 years.

I sincerely hope BiModal Glideway is at the forefront of this revolution. Please keep me updated as BMG progresses so I can share the news with my readers!

Chris @ BMG: Thanks Ersan. It’s been a pleasure.

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Ersan Seer

Ersan Seer is a futurist consultant, coolhunter, market researcher, strategic advisor, and concept artist. Ersan hungers to make the future world a more peaceful, survivable place.  → Read More & Book Ersan Seer

3 Responses to BiModal Glideway May Be a Better Alternative to Google’s Driverless Cars

  1. Jim Beregi says:

    Ersan, BNG is a good idea, Freedom Transit (FT) goes farther, simple electric car design with short range batteries as the FT system powers the electric car without riding on rails. Power and guidance comes through a probe that fallows a rail and steers the electric vehicle. Stations provide, vehicle worthiness checks, and safe stop transition between automation mode and manual mode. Please see website.

    Comments welcome. Jim.

  2. Maniel says:

    I like your work. I wrote a book (3 volumes – two in ebooks, one on the way) along those lines not so long ago – see Website URL. That vision includes car-ferries (referred to as ‘frames’ in the books).
    Question: did you use simulation to characterize your system?

  3. Robert Neitzke says:

    This is not a Glideway transportation In order to be a true Glideway machine part of its modes must take to air flight or fly and glide to a safe stop or to lower speeds. This is Bi mode rail vehicle. It could be a guideway type machine

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