Opinion Brief

Google's 'crazy' new monorail

Will city dwellers really want to pedal themselves about in plastic capsules suspended from a rail?

The video: Google is investing $1 million in a monorail concept called the Shweeb that it thinks could relieve urban traffic congestion. But, unlike Disney's monorail, the Shweeb requires passengers to power their own commute by pedaling "bikes" contained in the individual plastic pods that dangle from its twisting, turning track. (Watch a promotional video below.) The makers of the Shweeb won the investment money in a Google-sponsored innovation contest — and hope to use the cash to mount a full-scale test of the Shweeb, which is currently available only to New Zealand tourists. The reaction: It admittedly sounds "crazy, uncomfortable, and tiring," says Timon Singh at Inhabitat.com, but the user-powered Shweeb certainly wins "sustainability points." And with top speeds around 45 mph, it's also been "praised for its speed." Sorry, this concept is flawed, says Luca Oprea at GadgetReview. "Isn't the advantage of bicycles the ease with which you can maneuver to your destination?" Those capsules will get stinky fast and "if one gear breaks, if one ankle gets sprained, the whole things grinds down to a halt." See the Shweeb prototype:

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