Sci-fi transport system launched at Heathrow Airport

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The state-of-the-art pods are expected to zip around 500,000 passengers annually between Terminal 5 and the Business Car Park. Photo - Terminalu.com

Heathrow Airport has launched driverless pods to transport passengers between Terminal 5 and its car park, taking a leap into futuristic, sustainable transport systems.

The Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) pods are battery powered and they can carry up to 4 people and their luggage. The pods have been on trial for about a year at the airport.

The 21 pods, use 70% less energy and cause zero emissions as per the airport operator. Laser sensors on either side of the gates navigate the pods around the airport ensuring they are in the right positions.

Circulating around a 3.8 km track, the futuristic vehicles also serve to reduce congestion around the airport by eliminating the need of 50,000 yearly bus journeys. They can reach a top speed of 25mph and function with 10 minutes schedules. The journey from the terminal to the car park that used to take up to 15 minutes has now been cut down to 5 minutes.

It has taken 40 years to develop the concept of driverless vehicles and the technology piloted at Heathrow is expected to be rolled out across the world.

HISTORY

Back in 1995, a group of engineers studying at the University of Bristol devised the pod. It took 40 years to develop the concept of driverless vehicles and it was developed by the airport. “There’s an enormous sense of pride for all the staff who were involved in turning this science-fiction dream into a reality at Heathrow and demonstrating the best of British innovation,” said Fraser Brown, the Managing Director of Ultra, the company behind the system.

Perhaps, the efficiency of the new system would increase if there was a way of accommodating more passengers in each pod. But the latest development cannot be undermined. The driverless pods are expected to be rolled out across the world and push forward the evolution of transport systems.

Sources: Business Review Europe, CBS News

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