Sep
25
2010

Pedal-powered monorail gets $1.3M Google grant

Have you heard of the Shweeb? Me neither. But apparently, it’s a rather fun little tourist attraction located in Rotorua, New Zealand. Basically, it’s a monorail system. Unlike traditional monorails, however, this one has numerous cars, each of which can hold one person comfortably. What’s more, each car is pedal-powered, so the passenger is actively keeping the car going.

More than 30,000 people have hopped inside the Shweeb and raced around its track in Rotorua, with users stating that it feels “different” and “exhilarating”. The idea first came to a frustrated commuter trying to navigate the streets of Tokyo – “I tried cycling here but that turned out to be a pretty dangerous activity so the idea just occurred to me to be able to cycle over the top of it,” says Shweeb creator Geoff Barnett. And after spending six years combining monorail and cycling technology, the Shweeb was born. Unfortunately councils couldn’t commit to making an untested technology into a means of public transport, so instead it went to Rotorua, where it became an adventure tourist attraction.

Now though, the Shweeb may become a viable means of public transport after all – thanks to Google. The Kiwi company behind the pedal-powered monorail beat 150,000 other ideas to gain a Google grant of $1.3 million, after the internet giant conducted a two year global search to find the most original new idea.

Shweeb is now going to use the money to finally develop the project into an effective means of public transport. Shweeb has already had interest from councils in France and England, and hope to show a public transport model in the Northern Hemisphere in 18 months.

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