image via ultraprt
I have to be very careful when writing about Pod Cars; the pod people are dedicated and vocal and once gave me a prize for writing fishwrap. I have previously called them a solution in search of a problem, but Jim Witkin at the New York Times thinks that they might make sense. He writes about their upcoming use at Heathrow Airport in London:
image via ultraprt
Because of the reduced carbon pollution and lower operating costs compared with traditional bus service, proponents envision widespread use at airports, urban centers, office parks, shopping malls and tourist attractions. Many airports offer automated people movers: driverless train cars linked together that move passengers between parking lots and terminals, stopping at every station on a constant loop. By contrast, pod cars move only on demand, offering point-to-point service with no fixed schedule. Either a car is waiting for you when you step up to the platform, or you can summon one from the control panel at each station.
There are some interesting points in there; it is true that in most airports that use automated trains, they are running all the time. The airport operator expects it to cost 40% less than a bus service. The 21 car system will cover 2.4 miles and carry about a thousand people a day, which sounds low and is considered by commenters to be an error.
ULTRa, the company making the Heathrow pods, claims that they are:
The most environmentally friendly form of transit ever invented. It uses approximately 1,000 BTUs per passenger-mile, which makes it 50% more energy-efficient than buses or trains, and 70% more energy-efficient than private cars.
Perhaps their time has actually come. More in the New York Times
More on Podcars
Personal Rapid Transit "a Cyberspace Techno-Dream"
Can PRT, or Podcars, Replace the Automobile?
The Podcars Are Coming
Richard Nixon Proves Personal Transit Actually can Work