Delhi considers futuristic driverless pod cars

Delhi is considering a sleek, yet sustainable, pod car transit system. But is it practical?

India's capital, Delhi, is considering a sleek new form of public transportation: pod cars.

The chief minister Sheila Dikshit of India's second largest metro region called on the city's transportation department to do a detailed report on the personal rapid transit system, the Times of India reports.

Speaking about the system, Dikshit said, "We are willing to consider a new modern, convenient, pollution-free and affordable City Pod Car System to supplement the existing modes of public transport in the capital."

The pod cars transport individuals or small groups, usually no more than 6 in a car, on an elevated track in battery-powered driverless vehicles. See how it works for yourself:

In Delhi, the system would act as a supplement to other forms of public transportation and could be an alternative to personal vehicles, Dikshit said.

It's even more enticing because the company who approached the city says they will also commission the pilot project.

Even so, the government will need to decide if this sort of transit is practical on a large scale. The pod car system is already running at Heathrow airport in London, but The City Fix explains why cities shouldn't rush to pod cars as a transit fix.

Cities need permanent solutions to mobility problems, but it’s important to keep in mind that demographics change, as do commuter patterns. Permanent infrastructure that serves a niche group will only prove to be a nuisance to the city. The infrastructure that enables pod cars to function will remain as a lasting fixture in the city even if the pod car system fails to succeed.

“PRT systems generate a lot of enthusiasm: they look sleek, modern and the new versions are definitely cool. But jumping into them should be taken with care,” [Dario] Hidalgo [senior transport engineer at EMBARQ] says. “On the one hand, any electric-powered technology is not ‘zero emissions,’ as that depends on the grid. On the other, they may not be as cost effective as simpler alternatives. In general, evaluating alternatives is a good practice and should be applied to any urban investment decision before committing large amounts of capital or guarantees.”

Do you think it's practical? Would you give up your car to commute on a pod car?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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