November 7, 2013 – The City of Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom is planning to introduce driverless podcars to its streets in 2015. Podcars like the EN-V, (seen in the image below on the left) a General Motors vehicle which I have previously written about, is a candidate for the job. What makes podcars suitable for this town of 230,000 is their incorporation of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), vehicle-to-vehicle communications, distance-sensing, and flocking behaviour. Although they can run on a dedicated right-of-way, they also have the ability to operate on regular roads.
Milton Keynes is one of the U.K’s New Towns, a planned community, inaugurated in the late 1960s. Located northwest of London off the M1, it is most famous as the location of Bletchley Park, where British mathematicians unscrambled Nazi Germany’s coded messages in World War Two.
But now the city is about to introduce its first batch of 20 podcars in 2015 which will initially operate on a designated right-of-way between the city’s railway station and its centre. If all goes well the program will expand to 100 podcars by 2017 and eventually will begin to operate on regular city streets.
Designed for two passengers, the Milton Keynes podcars will be restricted to speeds of 20 kilometers (12 miles) per hour. Passengers will be able to relax and sit back, checking email, reading their newspapers and generally enjoying the freedom of not having to watch the road.
Where are podcars running today? At Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 to the west of London where driverless podcars have been operating since May 2011. At Heathrow the vehicle is the Ultra Global PRT, (see image below on the right) 4-passenger, battery-powered and operating on its own right-of-way. The Ultra Global can also be found on location in Amritsar, India.