Title:
DUAL MODE VEHICLE AND SYSTEM FOR HIGH SPEED SURFACE TRANSPORTATION
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dual-mode vehicle system for surface transportation comprising a cab, first and second independently-driven hubs coupled to the cab, and an inclined plane extending from a first surface to a second surface. The first and second independently-driven hubs each have first and second portions wherein the first portion of the second independently-driven hub propels the cab along a third surface at least until the second portion of the first independently-driven hub cooperates with the inclined plane to propel the cab up to said second surface. A dual-mode vehicle for surface transportation and a method of manufacturing the dual-mode vehicle is also provided.



Inventors:
Langenbeck, Keith A. (Richardson, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/382753
Publication Date:
02/08/2007
Filing Date:
05/11/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61C15/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MCCARRY JR, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Keith A. Langenbeck (540 E. Buckingham Road #916, Richardson, TX, 75081, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A dual-mode vehicle system for surface transportation, comprising: a cab; first and second independently-driven hubs coupled to said cab, said first and second independently-driven hubs each having first and second portions; and an inclined plane extending from a first surface to a second surface wherein said first portion of said second independently-driven hub propels said cab along a third surface at least until said second portion of said first independently-driven hub cooperates with said inclined plane to propel said cab up to said second surface.

2. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein said third surface is a guided roadway and said second surface is an unguided roadway.

3. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein said third surface is an elevated roadway.

4. The system as recited in claim 1 further comprising first and second motors coupled to each of said first and second independently-driven hubs, respectively.

5. The system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an autonomous power system within said cab coupled to and driving said first and second independently-driven hubs.

6. The system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an aerodynamic control surface coupled to said cab and configured to control an effective weight of said cab.

7. The system as recited in claim 6 further comprising a system computer coupled to said first and second independently-driven hubs and said aerodynamic control surface.

8. The system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an active suspension system coupled between said cab and said first and second independently-driven hubs.

9. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein said cab has a substantially flat bottom surface.

10. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said first and second independently-driven hubs comprise a single piece.

11. A dual-mode vehicle for surface transportation, comprising: a cab; and first and second independently-driven hubs coupled to said cab, said first and second independently-driven hubs each having first and second portions comprising a single piece.

12. The dual-mode vehicle as recited in claim 11 further comprising first and second motors coupled to each of said first and second independently-driven hubs, respectively.

13. The dual-mode vehicle as recited in claim 11 further comprising an autonomous power system within said cab coupled to and driving said first and second independently-driven hubs.

14. The dual-mode vehicle as recited in claim 11 further comprising an aerodynamic control surface coupled to said cab and configured to control an effective weight of said cab.

15. The dual-mode vehicle as recited in claim 14 further comprising a system computer coupled to said first and second independently-driven hubs and said aerodynamic control surface.

16. The dual-mode vehicle as recited in claim 11 further comprising an active suspension system coupled between said cab and said first and second independently-driven hubs.

17. A method of manufacturing a vehicle for surface transportation on both a guided and unguided roadway, comprising: providing a cab; and coupling first and second independently-driven hubs to said cab, said first and second independently-driven hubs each having first and second portions comprising a single piece.

18. The method as recited in claim 17 further comprising: coupling first and second motors to each of said first and second independently-driven hubs, respectively; and coupling an autonomous power system within said cab to drive said first and second independently-driven hubs.

19. The method as recited in claim 17 further comprising coupling an aerodynamic control surface to said cab and configuring said aerodynamic control surface to control an effective weight of said cab.

20. The method as recited in claim 17 further comprising coupling a system computer to said first and second independently-driven hubs and said aerodynamic control surface.

21. The method as recited in claim 17 further comprising coupling an active suspension system between said cab and said first and second independently-driven hubs.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This Application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/679,728 filed on May 11, 2005, entitled “DUAL MODE VEHICLE AND SYSTEM FOR HIGH SPEED SURFACE TRANSPORTATION,” and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/695,915 filed on Jul. 2, 2005, entitled “ACTIVE AERODYNAMIC DEVICES FOR DUAL MODE VEHICLE AND OTHER SURFACE VEHICLES,” commonly owned with the present invention and incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed, in general, to surface transportation vehicles and, more particularly, to a dual-mode vehicle that operates on both guided and unguided roadways.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many types of alternative transportation systems have been proposed for moving passengers and freight. The concept of a dual-mode vehicle and track system that would use the existing surface roads for collection and distribution of people and freight in conjunction with a dedicated pathway for safe, controlled, high-speed transit from origination to destination has been sought for decades. To date, no dual-mode transportation system has offered the combination of low vehicle cost, low cost guided track system, flexibility of freight and passenger use on the same system, simultaneous local and express service on the same track system, simple transition to and from the guided track, high-speed transit rates and ease of accommodation with the current modes of transportation.

Conventional trains, consisting of multiples of passenger or freight cars connected with separate engine cars, have limitations such as: limited-to-nonexistent service depending on origin and destination, high infrastructure cost to increase capacity, high acquisition cost of the track bed right-of-way, collision danger with road traffic at grade crossings, high overall cost for introducing new service, high electrification costs of existing lines for using current high-speed train technology, scheduling conflicts between freight and passenger use of existing single line tracks, high per-passenger seat costs for the vehicles, scheduling conflicts between local and express passenger service, inflexible balancing of vehicle capacity with passenger demand, difficulty in redeploying vehicle assets, long turn around time at destination, long lead time to deliver additional capacity and many others.

Conventional jet airplane travel also has limitations such as: limited service depending on origin and destination, security concerns create delays or interrupt service, high noise from jet engines, susceptibility to weather interruptions and catastrophe, high fuel consumption, high infrastructure cost to increase capacity, high per-passenger seat costs for the vehicles, inflexible balancing of vehicle capacity with passenger demand, long delays, excessive portal times diminishing the utility of the high-speed transit, passenger security examinations are a deterrent to use, and others.

Conventional surface vehicles also have limitations such as: low transit speeds, open and uncontrolled operating environment, traffic delays, relatively less safety, high fuel consumption per vehicle, very low seat utilization per trip, high operator error rate, widely variable vehicle maintenance, high cost of additional infrastructure, inability in some areas to increase infrastructure capacity, near term potential for grid lock, and others.

Accordingly, what is needed in the art is a fast, transportation system for passengers and medium weight cargo that does not suffer from the deficiencies of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

To address the above-discussed deficiencies of the prior art, the present invention provides, in one aspect, a dual-mode vehicle system for surface transportation comprising a cab, first and second independently-driven hubs coupled to the cab, and an inclined plane extending from a first surface to a second surface. The first and second independently-driven hubs each have first and second portions wherein the first portion of the second independently-driven hub propels the cab along a third surface at least until the second portion of the first independently-driven hub cooperates with the inclined plane to propel the cab up to said second surface. A dual-mode vehicle for surface transportation and a method of manufacturing the dual-mode vehicle is also provided.

Another intention of the invention is to minimize the total aggregate travel time from door to door as experienced by the passenger or payload.

Another intention of the invention is for the vehicle to operate on the open road surface and the dedicated track system with a minimal compromise of performance and minimal complexity during transition.

Another intention of the invention is to minimize fuel consumption on per passenger basis.

Another intention of the invention is to minimize the per seat cost of the vehicle.

Another intention of the invention is for the vehicle to passively transition from the road onto the track and back on to the road without having to change its operating configuration or have need for an external operating mechanism.

Another intention of the invention is to utilize groups of autonomously powered vehicles operating in unison via communication means in lieu of being mechanically linked, thus allowing for flexible deployment of vehicles and more precise matching of deployed seating capacity to actual passenger demand.

Another intention of the invention is for the vehicle to be capable of fully manual and fully automated operation.

Another intention of the invention is for the vehicle to be autonomously powered and not need or use power rails, buss bar or other type of external collector means for receiving or storing electrical power, thus simplifying the vehicle design and reducing overall infrastructure cost.

Another intention of the invention is for the vehicle design and shape to minimize aerodynamic drag with a low coefficient of drag and a smooth bottom surface.

Another intention of the invention is to utilize positionable aerodynamic devices to enhance the performance and safety of the vehicle by improving vehicle stability at speed, improving vehicle stability when operating in curves and supplementing the mechanical braking systems.

Another intention of the invention is to utilize active suspension technology in conjunction with the positionable aerodynamic surfaces to tilt the vehicle inward while operating in the curves.

Another intention of the invention is for groups of vehicles operating simultaneously on a common track to be arranged in descending order with the farthest destination vehicle leading, thus allowing for the shorter destination vehicles to slow down and stop without impeding the travel of the other vehicles.

Another intention of the invention is for the track system to be above the surface roads to eliminate grade crossing collisions, increase vehicle security and minimize vandalism.

Another intention of the invention is for the track system design and construction to reflect the lower weight of the vehicle and allow for reduced cost of manufacture and shorter, easier installation.

Another intention of the invention is for the track system design to maximize off-site automated manufacturing work and minimize in-field construction, thus reducing the cost of the track infrastructure and the time of installation.

Another intention of the invention is for the track system to potentially be mounted above existing railroad lines, thus utilizing current rights-of-way and the existing surface rail track for mechanized delivery and assembly trains to install the overhead track system.

Another intention of the invention is for the track system superstructure to anticipate the use of pairs of parallel tracks, vertical or horizontal or both, thus allowing for bi-directional travel along the same pathway without interruption.

The foregoing has outlined preferred and alternative features of the present invention so that those skilled in the pertinent art may better understand the detailed description of the invention that follows. Additional features of the invention will be described hereinafter that form the subject of the claims of the invention. Those skilled in the pertinent art should appreciate that they can readily use the disclosed conception and specific embodiment as a basis for designing or modifying other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. Those skilled in the pertinent art should also realize that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the invention, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a plan view of a dual-mode vehicle while engaged on a guided roadway;

FIG. 2 illustrates an elevation view of the dual-mode vehicle of FIG. 1 while engaged on steel track;

FIG. 3 illustrates an end view of the dual mode vehicle of FIG. 1 while engaged on the steel track;

FIG. 4 illustrates an end elevation sectional view of the dual-mode vehicle while engaged on the steel track along plane 4-4 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 illustrates a side elevation view of two dual-mode vehicles on elevated, guided roadways stacked vertically above a conventional steel railway on the ground;

FIG. 6 illustrates an end elevation view of the two dual-mode vehicles of FIG. 5 on elevated, guided roadways stacked vertically above the conventional steel railway on the ground;

FIG. 7 illustrates a side elevation view of the dual-mode vehicle in transition up and off of the guided roadway and onto a road surface;

FIG. 8 illustrates a side elevation view of the dual-mode vehicle in transition down and onto the guided roadway and off of the unguided road surface;

FIG. 9 illustrates an end view of dual-mode vehicle with the annular steel surfaces of dual-function hubs fully engaged with the steel rails;

FIG. 10 illustrates an end view of the dual-mode vehicle with the annular steel surfaces of dual-function hubs fully disengaged from the steel rails;

FIG. 11 illustrates a road-only vehicle in plan, elevation, and end views with the positionable aerodynamic devices; and

FIG. 12 illustrates a road-only vehicle in plan, elevation, and end views with the positionable aerodynamic devices shown as opposing pairs.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to the drawings, the purpose of which is to illustrate the invention only and not to limit the invention in any sense, a preferred embodiment of the dual-mode surface transportation system is shown in FIGS. 1-12. The dual-mode transportation system consists of a number of related mechanisms or concepts, some of which are pre-existent and may be used with modification. Others may be known in the art but have not been configured in this manner, or arranged to function as a unified system of transportation.

Referring initially to FIG. 1, illustrated is a plan view of a dual-mode vehicle 10 while engaged on a guided roadway 30 including positionable aerodynamic devices, generally referenced as 200, which are individually shown as opposing pairs 202, 206 and 204, 208. One who is of skill in the art will recognize that a light-rail type system constitutes a guided roadway, and that conventional surface roads constitute an unguided roadway. Therefore, reference using either terminology, as appropriate, may be made throughout the remainder of this description.

The dual-mode vehicle 10 is the core of the invention and is an autonomously powered vehicle that is designed to operate without the need of electrical connection means for receiving motive power, either dynamically, as in an electric train or subway, or statically, as in a rechargeable electric car. A typical dual-mode vehicle 10, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-4, is anticipated to carry from 10 to 30 passengers each over moderate distances of 200 to 800 miles on steel track 30 at speeds exceeding 200 mph without refueling. This operational speed requires the vehicle shape to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible. The aggressively pointed front of the vehicle 10, shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, along with an uncluttered flat bottom 11, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, minimize the induced drag at high operational speeds. The actual shape, configuration, and range of performance of the dual-mode vehicle 10 will vary depending upon the intended use and other considerations.

Referring now to FIG. 2, illustrated is an elevation view of the dual-mode vehicle 10 of FIG. 1 while engaged on steel track 30 and including the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 in the neutral or horizontal position. The dual-mode vehicle 10 comprises a cab 81, pneumatic tires 27 mounted on first and second dual-function hubs 21, 22 (collectively referenced as 20). The pneumatic tires 27 are shown straddling an outside of the steel rail 30. First and second dual-function hubs 21, 22 and pneumatic tires 27 are mounted near front and rear ends of the cab 81. A lower surface 28, or tangent point, of pneumatic tires 27 is clearly above a bottom edge of the steel rail 30

In the neutral position, each positionable aerodynamic surface 200 has an aerodynamic cross section that generates zero lift. The design of the aerodynamic cross section is performed using conventional low-speed aerodynamics available to one who is of skill in the art and would likely be a symmetrical airfoil. The positionable aerodynamic devices 200 are mechanically constrained such that only zero or negative lift can be induced when they are operated. The neutral position will be the position for most low speed operation of the vehicle 10. Downward force applied to the vehicle 10 will be generated at higher speeds when the positionable aerodynamic surface 200 is rotated so that a leading edge 211 is down relative to its trailing edge 212. This will result in the vehicle 10 having an effective weight that may be more than its actual static weight. The amount of downward force can and will vary depending on the amount the positionable aerodynamic surface 200 is rotated and the vehicle speed. Although located in sets along the main axis of the vehicle 10, the positionable aerodynamic surfaces may be operated as lateral or longitudinal sets, or each independently, as required for a given operating condition.

Referring now to FIG. 3, illustrated is an end view of the dual mode vehicle 10 of FIG. 1 while engaged on the steel track 30 and includes the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 in the neutral or horizontal position. Pneumatic tires 27 mounted on the dual-function hubs 20 are shown straddling the outsides of the steel rails 30. The lower surface 28 or tangent point of the pneumatic tires 27 are clearly above the surface on which the steel rail 30 is mounted.

The end view of the dual-mode vehicle 30 shows the upper left and upper right sidewalls 80A, 80B, respectively, of the vehicle 10 having been angled toward a center of the overhead wall of the vehicle 10. The inward angling of the upper left and upper right sidewalls 80A, 80B reduces the cross sectional area of the vehicle 10 as compared to a vehicle with the same overall height and right angle corners. The inward angling of the upper left and upper right sidewalls 80A, 80B of the vehicle 10 provides space for mounting of the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 extending outwardly from the upper center of the vehicle 10. The positionable aerodynamic devices 200 are capable of operating independently, but will function primarily as left and right pairs identified as 202 with 204, and 206 with 208, as shown in FIG. 1. One who is of skill in the art will readily understand how the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 are implemented.

Referring now to FIG. 4, illustrated is an end elevation sectional view of the dual-mode vehicle 10 while engaged on the steel track 30 along plane 4-4 of FIG. 1. In a preferred embodiment, each dual-function hub 20 is a single piece of steel having first and second portions 24, 25, respectively. The first portion 24 comprises an annular surface 23 for riding on the steel rails 30 and the second portion 25 comprises a conventional rim profile for mounting of the pneumatic rubber road tires 27. Because of the singular and integral construction of the dual-function hubs 20, the annular surface 23 and the conventional rim profile 25 are driven simultaneously by the same driving force 40.

In one embodiment, the dual-mode vehicle 10 further comprises an autonomous drive means 55, for example, an on-board, internal combustion engine, coupled to an electrical generator 57 to produce electrical power routed to independent motors 40 located at, and coupled to, each of the dual-function hubs 20. The electric motors 40 are independently coupled to, monitored, and controlled by an on-board computer system 60 for speed matching or speed variation between the dual-function hubs 20. This capability enables directional control of the vehicle 10 through differential motor speeds.

With all of the dual-function hubs 20 being separately driven and independently controlled for speed, the need for differential wheel speeds when going through curves or turning the vehicle 10 can be accomplished without gear-type differentials and without conventional pivotal steering mechanisms. A four-wheel driven vehicle 10 with independent, electrically-driven dual-function hubs 20, while operating in surface transport, can turn corners by simply varying the speed of each electric motor 40. This is similar to the manner in which tracked vehicles (tractors, tanks, cranes, etc.) change directions. In this drive configuration, vehicle 10 would be able to essentially rotate about its center by having the left side dual-function hubs 20 rotate at the same speed as the right side dual-function hubs 20, but the pairs would operate in opposite directions. Alternatively, the vehicle 10 can also be driven by direct mechanical means from an on-board, internal combustion engine (not shown) through conventional transmissions and gear differentials 50 with direction changing accomplished by conventional steering of the front wheels (not shown).

The vehicle 10 further comprises an active suspension system 42 coupled between the cab 81 and the independently-driven hubs 20. The suspension system 42 for each dual-function hub 20 is preferably an active system that monitors the vehicle speed, vehicle load, road surface or track pathway, and adjusts the suspension setting and vehicle attitude for the conditions. It would not be a conventional or passive system of reactive springs and shock absorbers. This active suspension system 42 will also be capable of leaning or tilting the vehicle toward the center of a curve when traveling at high speeds on the guided railway type surface 30. This capability minimizes the perceived effects of centripetal force on the passengers. This active suspension also eliminates the need for a separately articulated passenger compartment that tilts to the center of a curve as found on some conventional high-speed passenger trains.

One of the functions of the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 will be to assist in vehicle stability by supplying a downward force, i.e., negative lift, thereby creating a perceived weight of the vehicle 10 controlled by the system computer 60 while operating the vehicle 10 at high speeds. The amount of downward force will be automatically adjusted by the system computer 60 depending on the rate of travel, whether on a straight or curved section of track, when being used as aerodynamic drag brakes, and upon sensing unusual track, weather, or surface conditions.

For example, if the left positionable aerodynamic devices 202 and 204 were on the inside of a curve at relatively high speed, then the left positionable aerodynamic devices 202, 204 would be rotated relatively more than the respective right positionable aerodynamic devices 206, 208. The downward force supplied by the positionable aerodynamic devices 202, 204 would be greater, respectively, than the downward force supplied by the right positionable aerodynamic devices 206, 208. As the vehicle 10 exits the curve and rolls onto a straight section of track, the amount of downward force supplied by the left positionable aerodynamic devices 202 and 204 would be reduced and made equal to the amount of down force supplied by the right positionable aerodynamic devices 206 and 208.

The positionable aerodynamic surfaces 200 will also be used as aerodynamic drag brakes in coordination with and to assist the other mechanical braking features of the vehicle 10. When being used as aerodynamic drag brakes, the positionable aerodynamic surfaces 200 would be rotated with the leading edge 211 downward and the trailing edge 212 upward by as much as 90 degrees from the horizontal position. This results in the trailing edge 212 being located directly above the leading edge 211 of the positionable aerodynamic surface 200. This function is similar to the speed brakes/spoilers found on the wings and fuselages of commercial and military jet aircraft.

The on-board computer system 60 is coupled to the active suspension system 42, the engine 55, and the generator 57. Electrical power generated by the generator 57 is also used to: operate the active suspension system 42, operate the positionable aerodynamic devices 200, power the vehicle environmental functions, operate the vehicle control systems, power internal and external communications, power the internal entertainment systems, etc.

Given the expected operational speed of over 200 mph of dual-mode vehicle 10, the preferred embodiment is for it to operate on elevated tracks typically above existing railroad rights-of-way at high speeds. Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, illustrated are side elevation and end elevation views, respectively, of two dual-mode vehicles 10 on elevated, guided roadways 6 stacked vertically above a conventional steel railway 32 on the ground. The elevated track system 5 comprises pairs of vertical columns 7, horizontal members 8, roadways 6, and steel track 30. The horizontal members 8 couple the pairs of vertical columns 7 across the conventional steel railway 32 on the ground. Roadways 6 are coupled to the horizontal members 8 and mounted between sequential pairs of vertical columns 7. The steel track 30 is then mounted to the roadways 6. The current design for the elevated track system 5 envisions the installation of two vertically-stacked, rail-type roadways 6 for simultaneous, bi-directional operation of the two dual-mode vehicles 10 along the same route. It is also anticipated that the elevated track system 5 could be arranged with the roadways 6 at the same elevated level and spaced apart. A portion 7A of the vertical column 7 is buried in the ground in what is commonly known as a footing. A portion of the roadway 6 of the elevated track system 5 has been removed to reveal the full length of the dual-mode vehicles 10. The upper dual mode vehicle 10 is shown going away from the viewer and the lower dual mode vehicle 10 is shown approaching the viewer illustrating simultaneous bi-directional operation of the system.

At first, the track systems 5 are envisioned to be installed directly above existing railway tracks 32. Installing the stacked, elevated roadway system 5 over the existing railways 32 generally eliminates the cost and need to acquire new property rights-of-way. The existing, ground-level, railway tracks 32 will be used to deliver pre-fabricated components of the elevated track system 5 to the desired assembly locations on dedicated assembly trains (not shown) progressively down existing railway tracks 32. The dedicated assembly trains will also be used for the drilling of piers, pouring of concrete footings, setting of vertical columns 7 at given intervals with connecting horizontal members 8, and the raising and installation of the roadway 6 sections and tracks 30. Use of pre-fabricated components carried directly to the point of installation allows for reduced capital costs per mile of installed track and shorter installation time periods. The current configuration of the track system 5 anticipates and includes the ability to heat the steel track 30 surface allowing for all weather use and eliminating concerns for frozen precipitation accumulating on the track surface and thereby preventing use.

It is anticipated that the specific ordering of groups of autonomously-powered dual-mode vehicles 10 will allow for the simultaneous mingling of local and express vehicles 10 traveling on the same track. Packs or groups of vehicles leaving from the same origin can be ordered such that the vehicles traveling the farthest will be at the front of the group. The remaining vehicles 10 will then be arranged in descending order with the vehicle traveling the least distance being positioned at the end of the group. When the last vehicle 10 in any group approaches its destination it simply slows down and stops without impeding the progress of the vehicles 10 in front of it. Exiting vehicles will remotely operate, or call for the operation of, a conventional railway switch that shunts the exiting vehicle off onto a siding having the transition area to be described below. Operating groups of vehicles 10 will use commonly known inter-communication methods between the vehicles 10 such as adaptive cruise control, radar or laser positioning between the vehicles 10, GPS positioning transceivers, and other methods that are known in the art.

The elevation of track system 5 allows the dual-mode vehicle 10 to travel unimpeded and not only decreases transit time, but improves safety by eliminating grade crossing collisions with surface cars, trucks, vans, buses and etc. Therefore, the safety of conventional surface traffic and high-speed rail-type transportation are both enhanced by the use of dedicated elevated track system 5 and the dual-mode vehicle 10.

Transition from guided roadway 30 to unguided roadway 100 requires no external mechanism to lift the vehicle 10 off of the track 30. Referring now to FIG. 7, illustrated is a side elevation view of the dual mode vehicle 10 in transition up and off of the guided roadway 30 and onto a road surface 100. The dual-mode vehicle 10, with its dual function hubs 20, allows the vehicle 10 to passively enter and exit a light-rail type track 30 from a surface road 100. In practice, exiting the guided roadway 30 is achieved by both the front and rear dual function hubs 21, 22 propelling the vehicle 10 through hub contact with the guided roadway 30 until the front pneumatic tires 27 contact an inclined plane 110. The inclined plane 110 is an extension of the road surface 100 and a gradually inclined smooth surface, located both outside of the steel rails 30 and between the steel rails 30. The rear dual-function hub 22 with pneumatic tire 27 is shown at the point of transition of coming off of the steel rail 30 and onto the inclined plane 110. The front dual-function hub 21 with pneumatic tire 27 is fully off steel rail 30 and onto the road surface 100. At that point, the pneumatic tires 27 of both the front and rear dual-function hubs 21, 22 are driving the vehicle 10.

Likewise, transition from unguided roadway 100 to guided roadway 30 requires no external mechanism to lift the vehicle 10 onto the track 30. Referring now to FIG. 8, illustrated is a side elevation view of the dual mode vehicle 10 in transition down and onto the guided roadway 30 and off of the unguided road surface 100. The front dual-function hub 20 with pneumatic tire 27 is shown at the point of transition of coming off the road surface 100 and onto the steel rails 30. The transition is substantially the reverse process of exiting the unguided roadway 100 and entering the guided roadway as explained above with reference to FIG. 7. In this case, the pneumatic tires 27 propel the vehicle 10 until the first portions (annular steel surface) 23 of the rear hubs 22 contact the rails 30.

Referring now to FIG. 9, illustrated is an end view of dual-mode vehicle 10 with the annular steel surfaces 23 of dual-function hubs 20 fully engaged with the steel rails 30. As can be seen, the lower surfaces 28 of the pneumatic tires 27 attached to the dual-function hubs 20 are clearly not in contact with any surface.

Referring now to FIG. 10, illustrated is an end view of the dual-mode vehicle 10 with the annular steel surfaces 23 of dual-function hubs 20 fully disengaged from the steel rails 30. The lower surfaces 28 of the pneumatic tires 27 attached to dual-function hubs 20 are in full contact with the road surface 100 which is equal to, or greater in height than the upper edge of the steel rails 30. When the vehicle 10 has transitioned fully to the road surface 100, vehicle 10 can then exit the transition area by steering across the steel track 30 as at a conventional railroad crossing. Once off the guided roadway 30, the ability of the dual-mode vehicle 10 to steer or change direction, while operating on the surface roads 100 allows for quick turn around times and re-direction of the vehicle 10 without the need for turntable-type systems found in the marshalling yards of conventional train operations.

It is anticipated that the active aerodynamic surfaces 200 could also be integrated into vehicles that operate exclusively on unguided roadways as shown in FIGS. 11-12. Referring now to FIG. 11, illustrated is a road-only vehicle 500 in plan, elevation, and end views with the positionable aerodynamic devices 200 individually shown as opposing pairs 252, 256, and 254, 258. The implementation of the positionable aerodynamic surfaces 252 paired with 256, and 254 paired with 258, could be cantilever-mounted from the upper center of the vehicle 500 in a similar manner as in the dual-mode vehicle 10.

Referring now to FIG. 12, illustrated is a road-only vehicle 600 in plan, elevation, and end views with positionable aerodynamic devices 200 shown as opposing pairs 262 with 266, and 264 with 268. Each positionable aerodynamic device 200 is individually supported at the respective upper edge of the vehicle 600 and the center of vehicle 600. The mounting of full-width, positionable aerodynamic devices 262, 266, and 264, 268 as found on vehicle 600, could be completely across the vehicle with or without a center support 270. Vehicle 600 shows center supports 270 between sets of positionable aerodynamic surfaces 200 located along the major axis of the vehicle 600.

It may be seen that the invention covers a wide variety of disciplines, including structures, power transmission, variable speed control, data communication, subsystem communication, logistics, aerodynamics, etc., all of which are not described in complete detail as this disclosure is for an overall system. Each area not specifically disclosed is within the ability of those skilled in the art and familiar with transportation technology and the underlying engineering backgrounds. Developmental details and improvements are expected.

Although the present invention has been described in detail, those skilled in the pertinent art should understand that they can make various changes, substitutions and alterations herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention in its broadest form.