Driverless cars are on the advance, with Google putting a lot of financing and research into the revision of the automobile. And Japan is pushing to produce commercial models of self-driving vehicles within the next 10 years. But we’ll probably see a form of driverless public transportation before any everyday person goes to the dealership for a hands-free car.
With inspiration from a similar system at London’s Heathrow airport, the suburb of Milton Keynes will deploy 100 driverless pods as a form of transportation. Although they are set on a fixed track, the “Ultra Pods” will transport small groups of people with capacity for cargo at a pace of 12 miles per hour.
At the moment, the town will restrict travel to business districts and the train station, but there is the potential for pod track to extend to other areas and possibly be free of fixed tracks altogether, enabling clusters of people to travel throughout the town.
Anticipating the value of driverless transportation systems, the Ultra Pods are planned for unveiling at least by 2015, preempting Nissan’s claim that they’ll produce the first self-driving cars for consumers by 2020 at the earliest.
Passengers will be able to call an Ultra Pod using their smartphone, and a single trip will cost around $2, a standard rate for most forms of public transportation these days.
Although self-driving cars will make private drivers safer and streets less congested, anticipating accidents and adjusting speed for traffic, the Ultra Pods fit better within the context of massive migration to urban centers. As cities grow rapidly, additional public transportation systems will be important for diminishing congestion and improving frictionless movement.
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