The futurist: Heathrow’s personal transit pods
The ULTra PRT pod at Heathrow airport. (www.ultraprt.com)
This week, Heathrow Airport introduced a new form of transport that will look familiar to fans of mid-century science fiction: emission-free, battery operated personal transit pods.
Instead of waiting for an airport shuttle, Heathrow passengers can hop in one of the pods that arrive every 34 seconds and travel along tracks between the terminals and car parks.
Passengers use a touch screen to choose their destination and the 21 pods, which carry up to four passengers and their luggage, are laser-guided and take an average of ten minutes less than the airport buses, mainly by avoiding traffic on the roads around Heathrow.
Designed and manufactured by ULTra (whose president is a former NASA engineer), the personal rapid transit (PRT) system cost £30 million and is expected to eliminate 50,000 bus journeys. While this is ULTra’s first working system, they are in talks with the Indian state governments to bring a similar system to Delhi and Amritsar. PRT systems may also be constructed in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina and at the new Norman Foster-designed Apple campus in Cupertino, California. Foster + Partners also designed the eco-tropolis Masdar City where PRTs have been proposed. According to an ULTra spokeswoman, the company will be announcing the location for the next PRT system in early October.