London trades airport shuttles for pod cars

Summary:We've heard about the use of pod cars for transit in extremely dense areas, but the city of London is already using them for another reason: airport transportation.

We've heard about the use of pod cars for transit in extremely dense areas, but the city of London is already using them for another reason: airport transportation.

Heathrow pod car

Heathrow's pod car
(Credit: ULTra PRT)

The New York Times' Wheels blog notes that Heathrow Airport has employed the solution in its Terminal 5, where the vehicles connect the terminal's two business parking lots.

The pod cars are manufactured by ULTra PRT, and began service in April.

Jim Witkin describes the experience:

Starting from the second level in Terminal 5, I recently took the pods for a chaperoned test drive — or, more accurately, they took me. The electric cars have no visible accelerator or steering wheel; rather, they are completely automated and travel along a dedicated guideway. My only input consisted of a button push, which indicated my destination.

Quiet and comfortable were my first impressions of the five-minute ride between the terminal and parking lot. On-board, the only sound over the familiar whirr of the electric motor was the recorded voice announcement from the iPad-like control panel inside the car, assuring me that I was "almost there".

The pod cars can go up to 40 kilometres per hour, can carry four passengers plus luggage, and have yet to experience any collisions, Witkin reports.

Pod cars

(Credit: ULTra PRT)

The 22 electric pod cars replaced two diesel-powered buses that made 216 trips every day. They're a sound solution for the endless loops that airport transportation must make. Plus, they're not nearly as expensive as a monorail.

We'd sure like to see them everywhere, and not just in airports: sprawling office campuses and fringe urban areas where traditional public transit options don't reach would be perfect for this. Imagine being chauffeur-driven to your important meeting from your house in the suburbs, or a quiet, congestion-free zip to the airport terminal for a flight.

Via SmartPlanet

Topics: After Hours

About

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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