If you've been to London's Heathrow Airport recently, chances are you've caught a glimpse of something called an ULTra PRT transport pod. Since 2011, these driverless pods have been shuttling travelers from terminal to terminal at the massive airport. That's all well and good, but now these driverless robo-cars are breaking free of their confines and heading out into the city streets.
The city of Milton Keynes lies just to the north of London. Over 200,000 folks call the place home, meaning that the streets can get a tad congested from time to time. But thanks to a new fleet of pod cars, that might just be about to change. The first few units will be deployed as early as 2015. By 2017, Milton Keynes is expected to have 100 of the futuristic, driverless vehicles.
Pedestrians wanting a lift to the shopping center, the train station or even their downtown office will be able to hail a pod by way of a simple smartphone app. Fares will be set at £2, or just about $3.15. Like their Heathrow counterparts, the Milton Keynes pod cars will run on electricity, returning to their charging stations between fares.
The pod cars are planned to run along the streets of Milton Keynes for five years as part of a pilot program. Laying special lanes for the pods and building their charging stations is estimated to cost nearly $105 million. That's a lot of $3 fares. But if all goes well for the folks of Milton Keynes, maybe driverless, smartphone-hailed pod cars will someday grace the streets of cities all across the world.