Taxis without drivers

Taxis without drivers

Summary: The European 'CityMobil' project which involves 28 partners in 10 countries at a cost of €40 million plans to eliminate city drivers and three trial sites have already been selected. For example, in 2008, Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow airport will be connected to the car park by driverless electric cars along a 4-kilometer track.


Almost all of us can recall both good and poor memories of taxi rides when we arrived in a city we didn't know. This is why a short article from Spiegel Online, 'Bringing Robot Transportation to Europe,' caught my eye this morning. It briefly describes the European 'CityMobil' project which involves 28 partners in 10 countries at a cost of €40 million. This project plans to eliminate city drivers and three trial sites have already been selected. For example, in 2008, Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow airport will be connected to the car park by driverless electric cars along a 4-kilometer track. But read more...

Here are more details about these driverless cars.

At London's Heathrow Airport, starting in summer of 2008, 19-computer steered electric cars will go into operation. The automated taxis will be used to connect Heathrow's Terminal 5 with a parking lot. The technology, which has been named "ULTra," has been developed by the British firm ATS and is already being tested. The driverless vehicles pick up passengers after they are ordered and deliver them to their destination. Magnets or sensors on the ground direct the vehicles along their route.

Below is a picture of one ULTra PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) vehicle (Credit: ATS Ltd).

An ULTra driverless car

And here is another picture of two of these driverless robotic cars (Credit: ATS Ltd). Here is a link to a picture gallery about the ULTra system.

Two ULTra driverless taxis

And here are the goals of this 'CityMobil' project.

The overall objective of this project is to achieve a more effective organisation of urban transport, resulting in a more rational use of motorised traffic with less congestion and pollution, safer driving, a higher quality of living and an enhanced integration with spatial development. This objective is brought closer by developing integrated traffic solutions: advanced concepts for innovative autonomous and automated road vehicles for passengers and goods, embedded in an advanced spatial setting.

And this is why this project plans to suppress the drivers, as the European Community Research & Development Information Service (CORDIS) reminds us in 'Driving you to emptier roads.'

CityMobil envisages driverless public transport systems taking you exactly where you want to go, and when you want to go. 'The on-demand factor is very important, even using a fixed infrastructure, you could arrange, on demand, a vehicle, which could then take you to anywhere you might want to go,' explains Jan P. van Dijke[, from Netherlands-based TNO Science and Industry, which coordinated the project.]

Finally, here is a short description of projects which will be implemented at the two other selected sites in Rome, Italy and in Castellón, Spain.

In Rome, special driverless 'cybercars' will take visitors between a new exhibition centre, the car park and nearby railway station. Finally, in Castellón, special buses that can run either with or without a driver, depending on the traffic conditions, will operate in the town centre.

And as writes the Spiegel, "that's only the beginning."

Sources: Spiegel Online, September 7, 2006; and various web sites

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Topic: Software Development

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  • Now you've done it!

    Personal Rapid Transit has some VERY vocal opponents among
    backers of older transit technologies -- primarily conventional light
    rail and bus -- so be prepared to be deluged with their scorn. In
    the transportation industry, any innovation is generally viewed as a
    threat. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see the Europeans forging
    ahead in this manner. I have great hopes for their success!
    • PRT is an Old Story in the USA (and a very silly one)

      ULTra appears to be FROG with the wheels concealed to make it
      look more fururistic:

      An Op Ed about PRT in the Seattle Post Intellligencer about PRT:

      This article explains why PRT is infeasible from an engineering
      perspective- Cyberspace Dream Keeps Colliding With Reality

      TC Daily Planet article about PRT in Minnesota:
      • Links to his own propaganda

        Every one of the links in this last comment is either:

        (a) a link the commenter's own anti-PRT propaganda pages, or
        (b) links to op-ed pieces he himself has written or co-written.

        They are riddled with innacuracies, half-truths, and misinformation.

        This person has also been known to use anonymous identities ("sock puppets") to push his agenda:

        For a more neutral treatment of PRT, without all the pointless political commentary, see Wikipedia:
        A Transportation Enthusiast
        • "Putting the PRT myth to rest for good"

          I didn't write or contribute to this one:

          Like gold standard crazies, intelligent design ideologues and
          cold-fusion enthusiasts, Personal Rapid Transit nuts see
          something the rest of the world doesn't see and think they are
          visionaries as a result. Since there is no "true" PRT system
          anywhere in the world for these people to spend all day riding
          around in, they spend their time comment-spamming blogs like
          ours. A similar blog,, had enough of it and
          decided to fact-check the PRT claims. They found claims of
          systems that don't exist and studies that were never conducted.
          • And how do we know it's not you?

            You've already admitted that you have anonymous identities out there supporting your campaign, so how do we know that's not you too? And what about "Denver PRT", the anonymous commenter on that thread? Is that you too? How many anonymous anti-PRT identities can be traced back to you, Mr. Avidor/Luddington/Sixpack/Mephisto?

            Notice, by the way, that there is nothing substantive in any of these links. It's all flawed logic like "PRT hasn't been built, therefore it will never be built" - in other words, Karl-Rovian scare tactics and Bill-O'Reilly-style rabble-rousing.

            There are certain people for whom light rail trains are the only answer, and even *discussion* of alternatives is akin to heresy.

            PRT is a viable and promising technology. For a very balanced description of PRT, good and bad, see:

            A Transportation Enthusiast
          • I didn't write this either...


            ...or this...


            ...or this:

          • Do you have anything more reliable than blog links?

            The cucking stool is basically a cut-and-paste job directly from your propaganda sites.

            All in all, I'd say that 70% of the anti-PRT content comes directly from you, 20% comes from your anonymous secret identities, 5% comes from random bloggers who cut-and-paste your talking points, and 5% comes from rail transit professionals who view PRT as a threat.

            In other words, 95% of anti-PRT propaganda can be traced directly back to you.

            So on one side we have companies and researchers around the globe working on this technology for decades; on the other side, a single pro-light-rail cartoonist from Minneapolis who had waged an epic misinformation campaign against it for several years.

            Are we really to believe this one single voice over decades of research? Are we really to believe that Heathrow Airport is party to an elaborate public hoax, just to kill light rail in Minnesota?
            A Transportation Enthusiast
          • I admit it-- I wrote this

            Since linking to your own material seems to be in vogue-- why not check out the See How They Distort Library, analyzing many of the popular Avidor claims about PRT?

            Also, this related piece (and links) about Avidor, sockpuppetry and political purity:
      • Debunking the debunkers

        The link in my last message is broken:

        Also see the following set of articles, which reveal all the innacuracies in the "Cyberspace Dream" article (which is really nothing more than a pro-light rail political attack ad):
        A Transportation Enthusiast
  • This should be fun

    Good thing no personal attacks are allowed.
  • What's Wrong With J-Pods?
    • I don't know!

      You ask what's wrong with JPods? I have no idea! There's little information on it, so I <i>reserve judgement</i>. This is because I base my opinions on <i>thought and reason</i>, not blind adherence to creed.

      For example, a non-thinker might discount JPods simply by virtue of some dogmatic belief, such as "PRT is a hoax".

      A thinker, on the other hand, can be both skeptical <i>and</i> open minded - reserving judgement until more information is available. This is my position on JPods.

      Does this mean I'm against PRT? Maybe in a black-and-white, "you're either with me or against me" world view - not in mine.
      A Transportation Enthusiast
      • J-Pods Shows More Life Than Taxi 2000

        Last news was 2004:

        Maybe it all comes down to faith... which of the dozens of PRT
        concepts you believe in:

        ... faith:
        • Who's the cultist?

          On one hand, you have researchers and engineers pushing the boundaries of engineering and technology, in an effort to develop a novel new form of public transit that <i>could</i> help to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce our thirst for oil.

          On the other hand, you have a single cartoonist who spends all of his free time attacking these researchers, digging up every morsel of dirt he can find on them, labelling them derisively as "gadgetbahners", and publicly ridiculing them <i>for committing the mortal sin of innovation.</i>

          Who's the cultist here?
          A Transportation Enthusiast
          • PRT "innovation" you can see for yourself...

            ... too bad its put together with plywood and duct tape:


            Will there be "Support the Trrops" yellow ribbons on all PRT pods?
          • Shame on them for attempting to innovate!

            Here we go again, more mocking of those who dare to try something new. Reminds me of creationists mocking evolutionists for committing the crime of scientific exploration.

            Who's the cultist here?
            A Transportation Enthusiast
          • Speaking of Creationism...

            ... why are so many PRT-promoting politicians promoting
            "Intelligent Design"?... like Michele Bachmann:

  • Speaking of dirty politicians...

    Why are so many light rail-promoting politicians having sex with 14 year old girls, like this guy:

    While promoting light rail in Portland, he was raping a 14 year old and covering it up. Why are LRT politicians supporting sex with underage girls???

    (for the satire impaired, this is just to demonstrate that I can dig up dirt on LRT politicians just as easily as Avidor can find dirt on PRT politicians. It's a ridiculous game but if Avidor wants to play it, I'll play along)
    A Transportation Enthusiast
  • PRT: More "innovation" you can see for yourself...
    • Yet another link to his own propaganda...

      I stand by my estimate that about 95% of the anti-PRT content out there comes directly or indirectly from you.
      A Transportation Enthusiast