U.K. town to deploy driverless pods to replace busses

Nov 05, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) —Milton Keynes, a town north of London, has announced that it will be deploying 100 driverless pods (officially known as ULTra PRT transport pods) as a public transportation system. A similar system has been running for two years at Heathrow airport. The plan is to have the system up and running by 2015, with a full rollout by 2017. The move marks the first time that self-driving vehicles will be allowed to run on public roads in that country.

The look like very small metro rail cars, with sliding doors for exit and entry. Passengers can call (and pay £2 per trip) for a pod using their smartphone. The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance. Each pod is computer driven by independent onboard systems, though humans () can take over if there is a problem. Each can hold up to two people and their luggage and travels just 12mph. Plans call for the pods to carry passengers between the downtown area, the business district and the train station.

The pods are expected to be cleaner, quieter and less expensive than the current bus system—each pod has a battery powered electric motor and is charged at various stations between routes. The project is expected to cost £65 million over the next five years and is part of the British government's initiative to support green technologies. Milton Keynes was chosen as a test site due to its proximity to London, its unusually wide roads and its willingness to embrace new technology. The move has been the next step after the successful implementation of the system first installed at Heathrow airport in 2011 where 4km of track has been dedicated to run 21 of the pods—all without major issues. Officials note the pods have sensors meant to ensure the safety of both passengers and pedestrians.

It is widely believed that if the pods prove to be successful (and safe) in Milton Keynes that the day will come when they will no longer be restricted to their own private lanes, opening the door to general driverless public transportation—a move that may ultimately result in driverless passenger vehicles being sold to the public at large.

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User comments : 14

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ScottyB
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2013
Welcome to Johnny Cab!
goracle
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 05, 2013
Welcome to Johnny Cab!

But will Johnny Cab wear black and be able to belt out a country & western tune?
krundoloss
1 / 5 (11) Nov 05, 2013
Didn't we have these 100 years ago, I think they were called Electric Railcars?
Shootist
1 / 5 (15) Nov 05, 2013
Can you imagine! The poor Gits who use these things will be raped, murdered, forced to sit in feces and exposed to nasty viral and bacterial vectors.

Her Majesty's subjects deserve everything HM Government can give them, and they deserve it Good and Hard.

Didn't we have these 100 years ago, I think they were called Electric Railcars?


Trolleys. But they weren't unmanned. So, no.
alq131
not rated yet Nov 05, 2013
How do these statements go together?:

"The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance. ... and travels just 12mph."

"..the first time that self-driving vehicles will be allowed to run on public roads in that country"

It would seem that something requireing special tracks and only travelling at 12mph is not really a vehicle that is on a "public road"...
kochevnik
1 / 5 (7) Nov 05, 2013
Only thing slower than London transport is US transport. Heathrow sucked for flying. The buses shut down at 2am and the first morning tube train arrived too late for the am flights. So the only option was an expensive London cab or to sleep over at Heathrow in their chairs or sleep on the floor like a derelict with the cleaning crew running brushes by you. With pods you will find people sleeping in them going around in circles all night

And the look of the pod is so British. Looks like an alien with a lobotomy crawling around Heathrow in a stupor
VendicarE
3.2 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2013
"The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance. ... and travels just 12mph."

Seems slow, but the route I take often has the overall transit time to be longer than it would take to walk the same distance.

So 12 mph would be a dramatic improvement.

Zera
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 05, 2013
Not knowing specifics I can only postulate: Perhaps they use a method of terrain following (similar but more sophisticated than the automatic vacuum robots - sensing the distance to an object to avoid it), while the speed may not be the limit of the motor (but an artificial limit imposed by a computer - with the intention to make people feel comfortable/safe with a new relatively untested technology).

While the dirty, disgusting part? Camera monitors the interior, if you make a mess you're automatically charged via credit card or something. Vehicle drives itself to a car cleaning location. Simple. Stop being a asshole though, don't ruin the future.
pauljpease
4 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2013
@Shootist,

You don't seem to have much of an imagination. Germs? Really? I'm sure you prefer breathing in the highly toxic air pollution caused by the current transportation system? Give the future a chance, it is way past time that we start inventing the next transportation paradigm. We need to start planning for the future, and plan like we mean to still be around as a civilization beyond the next 50 years.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2013
"The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance. ... and travels just 12mph."
Seems slow

You have to figure in that while busses do travel faster on the road they also stop every so often. So their overall average speed is quite low.

[]Not knowing specifics I can only postulate
This part (and the image) may provide the answers you seek:
The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance


The poor Gits who use these things will be raped, murdered, forced to sit in feces and exposed to nasty viral and bacterial vectors

You mean like in regular subway cars? Oh wait: There that doesn't happen, either.
QuixoteJ
1.1 / 5 (12) Nov 06, 2013
[the article]Each pod is computer driven by independent onboard systems, though humans (passengers) can take over if there is a problem.
Thank you!

[the article]It is widely believed that if the pods prove to be successful (and safe) in Milton Keynes that the day will come when they will no longer be restricted to their own private lanes, opening the door to general driverless public transportation—a move that may ultimately result in driverless passenger vehicles being sold to the public at large.
No thank you.
The Singularity
1 / 5 (12) Nov 06, 2013
12mph? tbh they look slow. How about adding a few pedal powered tricycles on to the system. The roadway seems well suited, although the interaction between human & future pod may not.
Mimath224
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 07, 2013
The other thing a pod may offer, depending on its size, perhaps a little more privacy or elbow room something lacking on LT at peak times.
goracle
1 / 5 (8) Nov 08, 2013
"The pods travel using rubber wheels on a special roadway, not a track, between curbs that help in guidance. ... and travels just 12mph."

Seems slow, but the route I take often has the overall transit time to be longer than it would take to walk the same distance.

So 12 mph would be a dramatic improvement.


It could be traffic backed up behind Mayor Ford.

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