While the concept of a self-driving car has been floating around for awhile, in the UK, there is one town that is replacing its local buses with self-driving pods. In Milton Keynes, the ULTra PRT transport pods, which fits 2 people, will be controlled by an on-board computer and can be called and paid in an accompanying smartphone app.
The pods will not drive on normal roads, but on a roadway with special curbs to guide the rubber wheels installed in Milton Keynes, a mid-size city in the UK that was chose for its proximity to London and an infrastructure that already included wide roads. They will be replacing the bus system as a more eco-friendly option, running on a rechargeable battery. While this is the first time that the pods are being used in an inner city setting, they have been on trial for two years at Heathrow airport, for short distances between a terminal and a parking lot, without any accident.
John Bint, Milton Keynes Council’s cabinet member for transport and highways, told a local paper, The Milton Keynes Citizen:
At the moment we have a great service for long distance travel to Milton Keynes, but when you get here we need a localised system that can get you from the train station or home to an office or shop without the pollution or parking issues that come with cars and taxis.
The computer-controlled pods only travel 12 mph and are capable of being overridden by the human passengers. Currently on trial for 5 years, at a cost of £65 million, the pods will provide transportation from the city’s train station and into the downtown and business districts. If all goes well, there is the plans to expand them to normal roads by 2017. that they will be expanded.