Heathrow flies to its future

August 2, 2012

Laser-guided travel pods that work without drivers or timetables were officially commissioned at London’s Heathrow airport last Friday.

Travelling at speeds up to 40 km/hour, after an average wait of just 34 seconds, the system ‘looks like something straight from a science fiction film’, according to a Reuters’ report.

A Heathrow spokesman told Business Line that the ‘first new example of transit technology in nearly a century’ consists of 21 low-energy, battery powered, driverless, zero-emission vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and their luggage along a dedicated 3.8km guide way.

The pods will carry the half million passengers who travel between the Terminal 5 Business Car Park and the main terminal each year, giving them a smooth and virtually silent five minute ride; reducing the time it takes to move from terminal to car park by 60 per cent.

The journey is on demand and non-stop from start to destination at the touch of a computer screen. Each temperature-controlled Heathrow pod has been designed for privacy and comfort and allows passengers to select their own direct destination. There are no timetables, and no waiting.

A central computer ensures that pods are distributed at each station according to passenger demand. When waiting for a passenger, the pods recharge themselves at battery points, so that they are always ready to go

The service runs pretty much round the clock; even when Heathrow shuts down for the night.

More than 100,000 passengers have used the pods since trials began on April 18.

The ‘personal rapid transport’ system, developed by UltraPRT, can run either at ground level or on an elevated track, and can be routed through or around buildings.

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