Are driverless pods the future for world cities?

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Media captionDriverless shuttle bus

I've just spent a fascinating morning, being taken around North Greenwich in a driverless pod.

It has no steering wheel and is modelled on the white guided pods you may have seen at Heathrow Airport.

Lots of companies are racing to develop driverless technology, previously I've been out in a Nissan autonomous car.

It nearly ran into the back of a street cleaning vehicle while testing in London.

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Media captionTesting Nissan's driverless car in east London

Nissan thinks it will take them five more years to develop it - they have been working on it for 12 years - but they believe autonomous cars eventually will be popular.

By running the cars closer together and reducing collisions they think it will reduce congestion and insurance payments.

Approaching the issue from another angle is the project in Greenwich. The Gateway Project is being part funded by the government.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The pods are modelled on ones used at Heathrow Airport
Image copyright PA
Image caption Passengers will hail a pod on a smart phone and it'll take them home

They don't want to "robotise" existing forms of transport.

Instead of aiming for universal ownership they are looking at a communal sharing model that would get rid of the need to own cars.

They are hoping for "smart cities" where the pods solve the "last mile" conundrum between transport hubs and residential areas.

So you'll get off the Tube and hail a pod on your smart phone and it'll take you home. This is about linking up mass transit systems.

That, in turn, will reduce congestion and pollution.

Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica which is developing the electric vehicles, said it "needs to be like any other form of transportation. It shouldn't be a white-knuckle ride for passengers.

"We know we've got the software right when the journeys are unremarkable," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The project is part funded by the government
Image copyright PA
Image caption The vehicle has no steering wheel

What is fascinating is how those around this project are assessing how this could feed into all aspects of city planning, including the layout of housing estates to roads to building design.

Our trip wasn't without incident; the pod had to do an emergency stop when someone walked in front of it. There was also a brief problem with the batteries.

But big things are expected from this project with paying customers using the pods by 2019.

It has huge ambitions and claims it will be the most profound change in mobility since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

And it is happening by North Greenwich Tube station. Let me know what you think.

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