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London Heathrow Airport gains ULTra PRT autonomous point-to-point transport pods

Do you know what’s the biggest problem with the typical shuttle buses that you find at many airports? They have to run on an endless loop, even if there are no passengers that need to get from point A to point B. You also end up stopping at stops that neither have people getting on or people getting off. The new autonomous pod car system by ULTra PRT, unleashed at Heathrow Airport in London, fixes that.

For starters, the system is electric. It’s also completely driver-less, since the pod cars operate on 2.4 miles of track. When you need to get from terminal 5 to one of the two business parking lots, you simply call up the pod, hop in, and tell it where to go. It’s an on-demand, point-to-point taxi service. It doesn’t need to run continuously on the loop; it just waits for when a passenger needs a pod.

Each of the 22 transport pods has enough room for up to four passengers, plus their luggage. As it zips along on the two-lane track, the pod cars max out at 25mph. Thus far, there are no accidents and they’ve achieved 95% technical reliability. They run 24 hours a day, but can sit idle when they’re not needed too. That’s very efficient. I’m wondering if similar systems will eventually replace mass transit in major cities…

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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