JR Hokkaido, a Japanese rail firm, is poised to fully launch its dual-mode bus and rail vehicle. The bus-train has both rubber and steel tires, allowing it to switch between regular roads and railroad tracks with ease. The company debuted a test model nearly three years ago, and a set up a test line in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Fuji late last month -- but JR Hokkaido will be conducting commercial tests on the Semmo Line near Shiretoko in April 2007. This crazy dual-use machine is meant to be a way to replace train cars that run on local lines where ridership is down to under 500 people per day (that's 30 percent of JR's lines). While you probably won't be able to get your hands on one unless you're a running a Japanese rail company, these new hybrids will cost ¥20 million ($170,735) apiece, which apparently is about one-seventh the cost of a traditional diesel-powered train car. At such bargain basement prices, Japanese rail riders might be seeing these pretty soon -- that is, unless the hovercraft-train-bus triple-threat comes to market first.

[Via Engadget Chinese]

Google and Orange teaming up on Googlephone?