Heathrow Airport 'pods' launched at Terminal 5 car park

Automatic pods transporting passengers using Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 in west London have been officially launched following a year-long trial.

The driverless vehicles can carry up to four people between the business car park and the main building.

Their batteries recharge themselves when the pods are stationary between zero-emission rides lasting 2.4 miles (3.8 km), airport operator BAA said.

The £30m system uses laser sensors so the pods find their way around.

It is estimated they will cut the number of bus journeys around Heathrow by 50,000 per year, BAA added.

The pods were initially devised in 1995 by engineers during a research project at the University of Bristol, and were then developed with the airport.

"There's an enormous sense of pride for all the staff who were involved in turning this science-fiction dream into a reality at Heathrow and demonstrating the best of British innovation," said Fraser Brown, the managing director of Ultra, the company behind the system.

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