Driverless pods: a fun science fiction concept turned into fact. They are already ferrying passengers around Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport where they use a guideway, which looks a bit like a monorail track (without the rail). Those pods can carry four passengers plus luggage and travel up to 40 kilometres per hour. The pods are powered by electric motors so are a cost efficient means of transport.
The town of Milton Keynes near London plans to take it one step further next year by moving driverless pods to the streets. These will be slightly smaller than their Heathrow cousins – they will only take two passengers and travel at a maximum speed of 12 kilometres per hour. They will transport commuters along preprogrammed routes from the train station to the shopping and business precinct for the princely sum of £2 per ride. These pods will use the same technology as driverless cars: GPS; high definition cameras and ultrasonic sensors to keep them on course.
The pods will be equipped with touch screens and wifi so that passengers can stave off any potential boredom from not having to drive with the ubiquitous internet.
A similar system was planned for Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s zero carbon wonderland, but it has been scrapped due to cost cutting (oil dollars can only stretch so far). Several prototypes still offer air-conditioned luxury to save students the arduous task of walking 800m from the train to university.
Once the Milton Keynes pods are let loose on the streets, it will be interesting to see how well they play with their less intelligent human-piloted friends.