Not everything has to be reinvented for a revolutionary new transport system.

This is shown by the Ottobahn of a Munich start-up.

The concept of a monorail with individually moving cabins uses a number of components from existing mobility technology: The longitudinal beams for the track consist of a steel framework with a triangular cross-section that is open at the bottom and come from the construction of roller coasters.

This elevated railway line of the 21st century is to be suspended from classic spun concrete masts.

The technology for lowering the passenger cabins to street level is to be used in the elevator industry.

And the combination of driven flanged wheels on rails is as old as the railway, almost 200 years.

Nevertheless, the concept of the Ottobahn, which is named after Otto I, Duke of Bavaria (1120 to 1183), differs fundamentally from other cable cars and overhead railways for use in metropolitan areas or cities: There are no trains like in Wuppertal, but small individual cabins with a volume of six cubic meters for one to four passengers or for goods, which should make up around half of the occupancy.

These "pods" may be reminiscent of urban cable cars, but they are powered by their own 1.2 kW electric motor, which receives its traction energy with 400 volts AC via a power rail.

Without train stations, but with autonomously moving cabins

This drive concept, says Ottobahn Managing Director Marc Schindler, is crucial for the flexibility of the means of transport.

Each cabin can drive at its own speed and follow its own route in the route network under digital control.

In contrast to the conventional circulating cable car, the Ottobahn also has switches.

These are constructed differently than the switch systems of classic trains or trams and do not have any moving elements.

Schindler does not reveal exactly how the "passive crossover" works.

Except that the turning is controlled by a "sliding mechanism in the chassis".

The operating concept is also revolutionary: there are no traditional train stations, but a pod, i.e. the cabin, is ordered from the autonomously operating swarm via app to any point on the route as required.

The vehicle stops there and lowers the cab to street level on steel cables.

Simply get in, the aerodynamically optimized gondola is pulled up again and off you go.

Inside you can work or watch series on the integrated screen.

That sounds as futuristic as the vision of autonomously driving car fleets in the city.

Requires little space and energy

So far, it has not been possible to realistically experience floating in the Ottobahn. Because the first test track consists of just a 40-meter-long oval of track in the start-up's office, where a test gondola with a four-axle chassis whirrs along just above the ground. That is set to change in 2022, because a 1000 meter long test track is being built in Taufkirchen near Munich, on which up to five vehicles with only two axles in the chassis will operate at a height of five meters. "The tests with unmanned drives are scheduled to begin in late summer," says Schindler. Rides with passengers are to follow later this year. And where could the routes run in real operation, where the pods then run at a height of up to ten meters, measured from the top of the rail to the ground, at up to 60 km/h in urban areas?

Aesthetic virtualizations of Ottobahn routes above the green strips along inner-city streets look interesting.

However, we cannot imagine that such routes will prevail in Germany at window height in elegant old-style apartments.

In that case, connecting the outskirts to the city center above busy streets seems to be more feasible.

For such scenarios, circulating cable cars have always been discussed.

This track could score with its small space requirement and the economical use of energy.

For example, Schindler can imagine extending the test track in Taufkirchen to Carl-Preis-Platz in Munich.

"It would be ideal to start in 2024," says the managing director.

This goal is ambitious, this distance is around 15 kilometers.

The start-up wants to invest five million euros in the project by 2023, including the costs for the route in Taufkirchen.