London’s Heathrow Airport is putting the finishing touches on their new driverless taxi system, which will take a single person or small group to any of the airport parking lots without a driver or rail system. The secret? Really narrow roads.
The 4-passenger ULTra Personal Rapid Transit system can take passengers from Terminal 5 to any of the parking lots around the airport. The rider selects from a touchscreen inside the pod and the special, super narrow roads are flanked with curbs on both sides which keep the vehicle on track to the intended destination.
Designed by Mark Lowson, these pods run solely on battery power with an equivalent carbon footprint of a 100mpg car, and travel at 25 miles per hour. Lowson also had a hand in the development of NASA’s Saturn rockets.
In some ways, it’s like a primitive realization of the ATNMBL concept designed by the Google G1 Phone guys. Although it’s dumbed down and stripped of luxury in comparison.
If the the 18 car, $41 million dollar system works out, the British Airports Authority (BAA) will provided an extra $330 million to expand into the other terminals and nearby hotels. And apparently, ULTra could also be easily integrated into the outside world as well, able to take travelers to their destinations with relatively minimal upgrades. However, Fast Company believes there would be too much political/financial red tape involved for these to make it into cities anytime soon.