Gadgets

Robotic chauffeurs for the masses: Driverless pods will replace UK town’s bus system

Image Credit: Ultra Global PRT

Driverless pods are officially going to be one U.K. town’s mode of public transportation. Those dirty, noisy buses are headed out to the retirement yard.

North of London, a town called Milton Keynes is embracing the autonomous vehicle lifestyle. It is one of the first towns to swap out its public transportation system for the cleaner pod system created by Ultra Global PRT. It hopes to have the project complete by 2017 and at least running by 2015.

pods seating

Above: Seating inside the pods.

Image Credit: Ultra Global PRT

Each pod is powered by electricity and will have a number of powering-up stations along a special road set up to guide each pod. A computer inside the pod drives it, but leaves open the option for human intervention if an issue arises. Four people can fit inside a pod with room for bags and things. It will cost £2, or $3.21 as per the exchange rate at the time of writing this post, and can be hailed using a smartphone app.

These “special roads,” however, should not be confused with a track, similar to monorails you see at the airport. Rather it is an often elevated road with bumpers to separate it from traffic and other elements. The pods aren’t reliant on these guideways, however, and can drive anywhere. As Phys.org notes, if the Milton Keynes project goes well, it could open the doors to having pods drive on the regular roads and not contained by safety bumpers.

These won’t get anywhere near the speeds of trains and buses, however. They’ll travel at a conservative 12 miles per hour along routes to Milton Keynes’ downtown and business areas, as well as the local train station.

Currently, Heathrow airport in London uses the same pods. According to Phys.org, Heathrow installed 21 of them in 2011 and has not yet had any major incidents.

hat tip Gizmodo


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