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Finance & Innovation

These Crazy Buses Can Drive On Top of Traffic in China

A bus that rides over traffic hit the road for the first time in Qinhuangdao, China, this week. The Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) is a new form of public transportation developed completely by Chinese engineers.

In a nation of more than 1.3 billion people, public transportation is often overcrowded. The economic growth of the world’s second-largest economy has expanded the use of personal cars beyond the capacity of many cities’ road systems. This regularly leaves cars and buses stranded in heavy traffic that adds hours to daily commutes.

The new TEB aims to circumvent the heavy traffic in China by simply driving above it. The unique design features an elevated carriage that is supported by a set of rails that straddles the cars on the road below it. The design gives the bus its Chinese name which is directly translated as “straddling bus.”

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The TEB Technology Development Company first unveiled the design in 2010. Critics questioned the feasibility of the design, particularly if the vehicle could work on curvy roads or if there would be enough space for the elevated passenger docking stations in China’s crowded cities. Despite doubts and skepticism, TIME Magazine named it one of 2010’s 500 best inventions.

Straddling-Bus-China-Elevated-Public-Transit-BODY-2010 TEB Mockup.jpgImage: TEB: 2010 Mockup

Six years later, a scale model was showcased at the 19th China Beijing international High-Tech Expo. The updated design included smaller sections linked by flexible connectors to aid turning, more safety exits for passengers, and an internal elevator system that lifts passengers in and out of the vehicle to overhead docking stations.

During the May 2016 expo, the designer of the bus, Song Youzhou, said that prototypes were under construction. The founder of the TEB Technology Development Company announced five Chinese cities –  Nanyang, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Zhoukou – had signed contracts to install the elevated-bus system.

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"With a carrying capacity of 1,200 people at a time, the TEB has the same functions as the subway while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway,” Bai Zhiming, the engineer in charge of the TEB project told China Plus. “Its construction can be finished in one year."

Each bus costs about ¥30 million RMB ($4.5 million USD). Up to four buses can be linked together through flexible connectors. One four-section vehicle is expected to replace 40 regular buses, Bai told the NY Times.

The electric bus is in part powered through solar technology and estimated to save more than 800 tons of fuel.

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Song believes the system could reduce 30% of traffic in downtown areas.

On July 3, 2016 a finished prototype rolled out of a factory in Changzhou City.

This week, the TEB had its first real world test on a 300-meter portion of road closed to normal traffic in Qinghuangdoa.

Tracks for the TEB are expected to start being laid at the five contracted cities before the end of the year.

Watch raw footage of the road test below.