Sao Paulo — Where Traffic Jams Span 180km

Next time you complain about being stuck in traffic, spare a thought for the drivers in Brazil’s biggest city, which has some of the worst congestion problems in the world.

Friday evenings are a commuter’s worst nightmare in Sao Paulo. That’s when all the tailbacks in and out of the city extend for a total of 180km (112 miles), on average, according to local traffic engineers, and as long as 295km (183 miles) on a really bad day.

The Brazilian car industry has been breaking successive production records over the last decade, as the income of millions of Brazilians has improved thanks to economic growth. Owning a car is a widely held aspiration, offering an alternative to the city’s deficient public transport system, and the ultimate proof of belonging to the middle class. However while the explosion in car sales was essential to sustain Brazilian economic growth, it has also pushed Sao Paulo’s “sea of cars” to a whole new level.

For those who have enough money there is another option – they can literally hover above the problem. The owner of Helimart Air Taxi, Jorge Bittar, says his company is enjoying an average growth of 10% per year and has 16 helicopters that rarely stay on the ground for long.

The heavy traffic has a huge impact on the cost of living and doing business says Claudio Barbieri, a professor in engineering and transport expert from the University of Sao Paulo. He says Sao Paulo has skilled and experienced traffic engineers that somehow manage to get the city to flow, albeit slowly. But he is also clear that “Sao Paulo needs urgently to invest more in public transport instead of building new roads and expressways that will only be filled up with more cars.”

What do you think is the best solution for heavy traffic such as that in Sao Paulo? Tell us about your most memorable stuck-in-traffic experience!

Source: BBC News

Image: Living in Brazil

‘Star Wars’ Hover Bike No Longer Fiction

A resurrected hover vehicle won’t fly through dense forests as effortlessly as the “Star Wars” speeder bikes from “Return of the Jedi,” but its intuitive controls could someday allow anyone to fly it without pilot training.

The aerial vehicle resembles a science fiction flying bike with two ducted rotors instead of wheels, but originates from a design abandoned in the 1960s because of stability and rollover problems. Aerofex, a California-based firm, fixed the stability issue by creating a mechanical system — controlled by two control bars at knee-level — that allows the vehicle to respond to a human pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.

Such intuitive controls could allow physicians to fly future versions of the vehicle to visit rural patients in places without roads, or enable border patrol officers to go about their duties without pilot training. All of it happens mechanically without the need for electronics, let alone complicated artificial intelligence or flight software.

But Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, the aerospace firm sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — heavy-lift robotic workhorses that could use the same hover technology to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain. Aerofex has currently limited human flight testing to a height of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph, but more out of caution rather than because of any technological limits. Older versions of the hover vehicles could fly about as fast as helicopters, Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex, said.

Flight testing in California’s Mojave Desert led to the presentation of a technical paper regarding Aerofex’s achievements at the Future Vertical Lift Conference in January 2012. The company plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.

Should Aerofex concentrate on developing a manned version of the hover bike, or just go on developing it for military use? Tell us if you like this invention!

Source: Yahoo News

Image: Adelaide Now