It is worth noting that Bombardier is no crank. His last name and early career belong to the Canadian maker of trains, planes and snowmobiles, and he is an influential design thinker and angel investor. Toronto’s Globe & Mail publishes many of his ideas in its “Prototypes” section, and it was that publication that asked him to reinvent the buses of the Toronto Transit Commission.
The result is the Xoupir (pronounced “super”), a slippery electric fantasy that might make riding the bus sexy. Electric motors would power the four drive wheels in its Batmobile-like back end, and the bus would charge wirelessly though induction coils, hidden under the street, which would only power up when the bus passed over them. Roof-mounted, flexible solar panels would power the on-board WiMax station, providing ultra-fast wifi to bus riders and any commuters or residents within a mile radius.
Meanwhile, windows would change opacity as conditions warrant, while the body – skinned with organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs – would rotate through different adverts to passersby, in the manner of the memorable Toyota Fun Vii Concept of 2012. It goes without saying that there would be a smartphone app or biometric reader to pay ride fares.
Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the Xoupir is this: it is based entirely on existing technology. True, induction is not the most efficient charging method, and there are no public roads of any substantial length with embedded charging coils at the moment. But if a charging roadway were ever commissioned at the municipal level, it will occur on a dedicated line – one, perhaps, reserved for municipal buses. Private buses already use high-powered wifi, so delivering more of it, to more people, seems wholly feasible. And that Minority Report-style personalised ad-delivery system, via OLED screens? The transport authority might as well reap the financial benefit from such highly targeted tech.
The public transportation of the future may not look like the Xoupir, but it surely will have an awful lot of its parts. Might as well get on board.
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