The future of public transport has finally arrived with Heathrow Airport officially unveiling laser-guided travel pods. The world's first fully-automated ULTra Personal Pod cars, designed by Advanced Transport Systems, were found to cut the time it takes passengers to move from the terminal to the car park by 60 per cent during a recent trial.
The UK invention is the culmination of over 60 years of development. Promoted as being immune to accidents and traffic jams, using thinner roads and requiring no drivers, they are being hailed as the future of transport.
The airport's fleet of 21 pods will take passengers to the correct terminal using information from their frequent flyer cards or by typing their flight details into the computer, with no stops in between. The pods run on their own network over a 3.8 kilometre route and can reach speeds up to 40km/h. Four people can fit in each pod, and they could transport up to 500,000 passengers a year, replacing 50,000 shuttle bus trips. It also reduces journey times.
Powered by batteries, they are more environmentally friendly than normal coaches. Services run 22 hours weekly. The pods may be rolled out across more airports soon, with India recently announcing it will pilot the system around Delhi and Amritsar. Feasibility studies are in progress in Raleigh, North Carolina in the US.