Following recent technological developments in the fields of automotive, mechatronics, big data and robotics, with particular reference to “smart” and electric mobility, together with the direction towards urban mobility of the cable transport industry, until the recent past relegated to tourist/mountain transport, hybrid systems are appearing on the market that combine the advantages of traditional cable systems with those of automatic electric self-propelled systems. It is in this context that Dimensione Ingenierie conceived, patented and developed the CableSmart system.
It is a hybrid system, in which the vehicle can be driven in two alternative ways:
- by gripping a rope, in a similar way to a traditional single-wire aerial funicular; or
- by motorized wheels mounted on the vehicle itself, in a similar way to a monorail or a small light rail.
It is emphasized that the transition from one drive mode to another occurs without breaking the load: the user does not have to move from one vehicle to another, but the same vehicle can be moved in two ways. The vehicles are similar in size to those of a traditional single-rope cable car (they can hold 8-10 passengers), with the difference that four motor wheels are mounted in the upper part of the vehicle, near the vice used to clamp the rope in the rope sections. The power wheels are powered by a battery contained in the lower part of the vehicle, which guarantees electrification to the vehicle itself and therefore allows the use of auxiliary systems for both air conditioning and video surveillance.
For this reason, a hybrid system such as CableSmart is particularly suitable for urban transport. Due to the dual traction mode, the CableSmart system is able to guarantee a high range of usability, which preserves the typical strengths of aerial cableway systems. (possibility of overcoming high gradients and anthropogenic or natural obstacles with a low impact on the ground) and integrates them with those of a rail system (ease of integration into the urban fabric, also thanks to the possibility of defining sections in the tunnel, and a line with curves with a reduced radius). The stations, stripped of bulky and noisy motor systems, are more streamlined and with a reduced impact on the ground: the intermediate stations with low turnout are comparable in size to those of a bus stop. In addition, self-propelled vehicles allow their own total stop at the station (the passenger embarkation and disembarkation operation is similar to that of a lift or a subway), allowing a more comfortable use of the work by passengers with reduced mobility or passengers with strollers, suitcases, bags … The CableSmart hybrid system allows to define a real public route network, allowing you to intersect two or more lines in the station; moreover, the passage from one line to another could be achieved without breaking the load (it would be the vehicle that moves from one line to another). In this way, despite the route constraints defined by the fixed location, the CableSmart hybrid system fits within the concept of the PRT to a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), a rapid and “personal” public transport system in which the passenger can customize his own route and even book his own vehicle.
Since its birth in 1992, Dimensione Ingenierie has never been satisfied with thinking about the present, but has always had a drive towards the future that has led us all to decline our traditional work in innovative and unconventional ways.
From our passion for innovation, the CABLESMART project was born, an innovative urban mobility system that aims to be part of the solution to one of the main problems that now afflict cities around the world: that of traffic. CABLESMART is a system that derives from the hybridization of traditional cableway technologies with recent smart mobility technologies capable of responding effectively, efficiently and smartly to the needs for speed, modularity, reliability, which today’s traveler requires from a transport system.
CABLESMART is the way of Dimensione Ingenierie to make its contribution to improving cities and the quality of life of its inhabitants. We have the dream of “leaving the world a little better than we found it”, and CABLESMART is one of the tools through which we want to achieve this goal.
In the world there is an enormous demand for urban mobility, which traditional collective transport systems satisfy in a partial and inefficient way. To date, 90% of the need for urban mobility is solved with the use of a private car, which is no longer sustainable from an environmental, urban and economic point of view (traffic congestion costs in the European Union about 1% of the gross domestic product of the Old Continent!). The public transport sector offers an inadequate response in many cases to the demand for urban mobility: traditional urban public transport is largely linked to obsolete technologies dating back to the second half of the 19th century. The need for privacy, usability on demand, comfort and personalization of the itinerary of current transport needs remains largely unanswered. For these reasons, a real revolution in urban transport is needed, a paradigm shift of which CABLESMART is an integral part. This paradigm shift is made possible today by the exponential development that sectors such as information technology, mechatronics, industrial automation and energy storage, telecommunications and electric mobility have had. The integration of these technologies with traditional cableway systems with automatic detent allows the creation of a collective mobility system that will allow the enhancement and qualification of urban areas.
Each vehicle can move in two ways: it can be clamped to two ropes as in a traditional cable car system, or it can move autonomously on rails using 4 motor-wheels powered by supercapacitors and batteries. The SMARTVEHICLE is designed to maximize passenger comfort: each vehicle has a capacity of 8-10 passengers (in addition to bicycles, suitcases and strollers), and includes air conditioning and communication systems (wi-fi, screens, music).
CABLESMART allows the complete stop of the vehicle in the station, allowing the comfortable boarding and alighting of passengers on board. This is possible thanks to the innovative CABLESMART system, which provides that vehicles entering the station leave the main line and stop completely in the interchange areas without hindering the movement of passing vehicles. Since the propulsion system is inside the vehicle, the stations do not need to contain bulky and noisy mechanical systems for moving the cabs. The SMARTSTATION thus has a limited footprint (comparable to that of a bus station), and is easily integrated into the urban context.
The double movement system (rope and motor wheel) allows to reconcile the advantages of a cable car system, i.e. the possibility of overcoming high differences in height and geographically complex areas, with a limited impact on the ground, with those of a wheeled system that gives the possibility to make curves with a radius of less than 3 meters. CABLESMART allows passengers to choose the origin and destination of their journey on demand. Each vehicle will in fact be able to move autonomously in the infrastructural network. These prerogatives define CABLESMART as PRT (personal rapid transit) with the enormous advantage of adopting proven and reliable technologies that refer to a certain regulatory framework.
CABLESMART in the rope sections, has balanced vehicles and line and therefore the energy required for its motion is exclusively that necessary to move the paying load and to overcome friction. When the vehicle moves on rails, it uses the energy stored on board (through lithium accumulators and supercapacitors) which is fed into the deceleration phases and downhill paths and collected in the acceleration phases and uphill paths, largely balancing energy needs. The vehicles are highly technological and therefore the energy contribution necessary for their air conditioning and communication is reduced to a minimum. The CABLESMART drive stations are equipped with energy storage and balancing systems to optimize energy consumption over the course of 24 hours. The majority of the energy consumed by the system is produced by photovoltaic panels installed on the stations, on the rail line and on board vehicles.
Since 2020, Dimensione Ingenierie has been collaborating with Batrholet, a Swiss company that is the third world player in the ropeway market, for the development of the hybrid cable-self-propelled system CableSmart. Based on the Dimension Ingenierie patents, Bartholet has developed the ROPETAXI system, the first units of which will be inaugurated to the public in the Laax (CH) area at the end of 2021.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under agreement no. 815499