Friday, 21 October 2011

Taxi of tomorrow: The space-age pods with no driver, no fumes... just a 'start' button

Last updated at 6:22 PM on 17th August 2009

A driverless taxi has been unveiled which could make traffic jams, petrol fumes and crowded buses a thing of the past.
The futuristic pod has no driver, and no opinionated chatter to accompany your journey, but instead a button set in the wall with the word 'start' written beside it.

The British-designed personal rapid transport (PRT) system is a four-passenger vehicle which is being rolled out next year at Heathrow Terminal 5

A visitor tries out the driverless pod at the Science Museum, where it is on display before becoming part of the Heathrow fleet next year

Professor Martin Lowson, the inventor, seated inside
The four-seater cab was unveiled at the Science Museum in London yesterday and will be in use from next year taking passengers between car parks and Terminal 5.
The man behind the mission, Professor Martin Lowson, who has a background in space travel and worked on the Saturn V Rocket, said: 'They could have the same effect on transport this century as the rocket had on the 19th.'
He added: 'We believe that our PRT system can transform cities in the 21st century to provide the optimum form of environmentally friendly urban transport, relieving congestion and reducing emissions.'
The bubble-shaped taxis are battery-powered and passengers select their destination from a touch screen.

Once the destination has been chosen, the control system logs the request and sends a message to the vehicle, which then follows an electronic pathway.
During the journey, a passenger can press a button to speak to the controller if necessary.
Prof Lowson has been working on the taxis with Bristol-based Advanced Transport Systems since 1995.

Inside the taxi - the futuristic controls (left), and windows, which appear clear from the inside

Easy rider: A passenger tries out the driverless cab

A test run of how the cabs could work takes place in Birmingham
At Heathrow, 18 vehicles have been bought to transport passengers and their luggage from the Terminal 5 Business Car Park to the terminal, which will take between three and four minutes.

About 500,000 passengers are expected to use the Heathrow PRT system each year.
Bath and Daventry councils are considering ordering the cabs, and ATS has already received enquiries from America, the Middle East and India.

Drawing inspiration from science fiction? The Logan's Run car was a driverless pod

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