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.