Author: Jim Witkin
Is the pod car finally ready for prime time? After almost 50 years of trial and error, these futuristic personal rapid transit systems, or P.R.T.’s, may be coming to airports and city centers because of technological advances and a growing interest in sustainable transportation.
Pod cars are automated vehicles that carry up to six passengers who are traveling together to the same destination. The cars ride on dedicated guideways above or alongside automobile and bus traffic. Propulsion is provided by an electric motor, and the car rides on small rubber tires. Imagine a very posh golf cart, but without the steering wheel. Navigation is entirely automated through a computer control system.
Because of the reduced carbon pollution and lower operating costs compared with traditional bus service, proponents envision widespread use at airports, urban centers, office parks, shopping malls and tourist attractions. Many airports offer automated people movers: driverless train cars linked together that move passengers between parking lots and terminals, stopping at every station on a constant loop. By contrast, pod cars move only on demand, offering point-to-point service with no fixed schedule. Either a car is waiting for you when you step up to the platform, or you can summon one from the control panel at each station.
Just get in the car, punch in a destination and the pod car travels directly there without stopping at other stations along the way. An advanced control system ensures each pod car follows the fastest route between origin and destination without bumping into other cars on the system.