In mid-September, laser-guided pods that transport passengers without drivers or timetables were officially launched at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, following a 6-month trial.The 21 pods, which carry up to four passengers and their luggage between the business car park and the main terminal building, are laser-guided and run along tracks. They take an average of ten minutes less for the two-mile route than the airport buses, mainly by avoiding traffic on the roads around Heathrow.
Passengers use a touch screen to choose their destination and there are no timetables (and no waiting), as 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. The 21 low energy, battery powered, zero emission vehicles, which use 70 percent less energy than it takes to power a car, and 50 percent less than a bus, can transport up to 500,000 passengers each year and replace 50,000 shuttle bus journeys.
Sixty years in the making, but on track at last for this British invention: a driverless, battery-powered, laser-guided pod. These podcars shuttle passengers from the parking lot to the terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport. Half a century ago, a network like this was just a dream for British engineers. Now, for the first time, it’s a reality.
“It’s a bit like a ski lift, those ‘egg lifts,’ but much more modern. I think they’re brilliant. Very good.”“No waiting around for buses like you normally have to do at Heathrow. Very efficient and clean.”
Engineers are hoping that’s the secret of the podcar. Heathrow says it will save 50,000 shuttle bus journeys every year, cutting those carbon emissions to zero and waiting times to an average of 30 seconds. But it’s not just at this airport that podcars are taking off… With shrinking space for railways and roads already full, Indian cities like New Delhi and Amritsar are now looking to pods to keep their people moving.