Saturday, September 25, 2010
Google’s Vision of the Future? Bicycle Meets Monorail
Pity the future.
Two years ago Google launched the 10^100 project to give millions to fund ideas that will change the world. After being overwhelmed by 150,000 ideas, Google finally announced five winners on Friday.
One of the top five is a company appropriately called Shweeb that proposes building a monorail made of little clear capsules powered by people pedaling recumbent bicycles. Google is giving the company $1 million to fund R&D to “test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting.”
Quite simply, Google must have gotten 149,996 stupid suggestions for this to have gotten funding. Monorails are kind-of cool in that Disney-theme-park way, and recumbents are efficient bicycles — if entirely unsuitable for daily, urban cycling. But combining the two is something not even the worst sci-fi writer would conjure up.
Can you imagine how sweaty and stinky these things would become? If I’m going to pedal something to get somewhere, it’s going to be using a bike that can actually turn and take me to my destination. Moreover, these things are bound to be slow, and will probably need a large staff of attendants, like a theme-park ride, to ensure that people get on and off safely.
That’s about the best one could hope for.
Shweeb is about to announce where its first public-transit system will be installed. We’re thinking it might work well in Miami Beach, where the well-tanned can shuttle from hotel to beach in a bathing suit, showing off their liposuctioned and collagen-injected derrieres through the plexiglass capsule to onlookers below.
It might also work well in Portland, Oregon, where it could convey bearded computer programmers (the core market for recumbent bikes) from one brewpub to another.
Or maybe it will eventually replace the miniature and embarrassing multicolored bikes that Google engineers ride around the Mountain View campus.
The other recipients sound much more deserving.
The net’s best fighter for government transparency and openness, Carl Malamud, landed $2 million for his Law.Gov project to make the nation’s legal materials online and free for anyone who wants to see them.