Last week we looked at the SkyTran personal magnetic transporter system. But while SkyTran is still just a concept, London’s Heathrow Airport is pushing ahead with driver-less personal transport pods.
The four-passenger personal rapid transport (PRT) vehicles, unveiled this week at the Science Museum in London, take airport-goers on a special narrow road from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to various parking lots. Passengers use a touch screen to type in their destination, press a start button, and the battery-powered vehicle zips along at 25 mph to their destination. There’s a reason the pods look so futuristic–they were designed by Mark Lowson, who worked on the Saturn Rocket that launched Apollo missions.
Only 18 PRT vehicles will be used in the initial $41 million Heathrow run, but if all goes well, BAA will invest an additional $330 million to expand the system hotels surrounding airport terminals. Eventually, it could provide an alternative to city-bound buses and trains. It’s a nice idea, but it will run into the same problem as SkyTran’s proposed system–cost. BAA may be willing to shell out cash for a Heathrow system, but it’s doubtful that city governments will pay for the pods and new road networks for them to travel on.