Heathrow gets driverless car of tomorrow, today

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Screw Fast Company for calling Heathrow Airport's new driverless taxis "creepy." They are in fact awesome: fast, immune to accidents and traffic jams, and using much thinner roads. And driverless, so you don't have to spend 15 minutes agreeing with the cabbie's opinions regarding immigration.

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.

Now, how about some Total Recall quotes, people?

Heathrow Unveils Creepy Driverless Taxi System [FC]

Published by Rob Beschizza

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17 Comments

  1. I think it indicates something when it is taken for granted that a device’s futuristic look can be explained by noting that the designer worked on a project in the 60’s.

    The future isn’t what it used to be, apparently.

  2. Ah, PRT.

    This is the only tech that stands to ultimately save us from our vast over-investment in road infrastructure.

  3. They should program in some politically extreme small talk just for verisimilitude.

    “GREETINGS HUMAN. COMMENCING SCAN.

    “I AM PLEASED TO SEE YOU ARE A MALE PIGMENT-DEFICIENT HUMAN. NOT THAT MY PROGRAMMING IS BIASED IN ANY WAY, BUT SOME OF THESE HUMAN FEMALES OR PIGMENT-POSITIVE HUMANS, LET ME TELL YOU. DO YOU CONCUR (Y/N)?”

  4. I don’t know what FC’s problem is–if these things need a special road, it’s virtually the same thing as the monorails that lots of other airports have. (In other news, Fast Company is still around.)

  5. Wow, has anyone else read Bruno Latour’s Artemis: Or, Love of Technology? It’s an overtheorized look at how a French “personal” train system much like this was designed and abandoned in the 1980s.

    Huh, someone in London must have read it…

  6. “Where am I?”
    “You’re in a Johnny Cab!”
    “How did I get here?”
    “The door opened, and you got in.”

    And. Um. “Get you ass to Mahhhs.”

  7. Or, as I’m sure Doctorow would have pointed out, much like the public transport in Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.

  8. How long until we have our first driverless road-rage incident? Will this be the invention that teaches the machines to feel anger?

  9. There’s some more information in this old (2007!) BBC news article.

    The pods – “Personal rapid transport systems” – are made by this company, who have some specs and videos of the pods running on a test track they built near Cardiff.

    Oh, and semiotix wins BoingBoing for today.

  10. they really need to sort out a whole bucketload of shitness over at heathrow before they introduce shiny new things. Place is a hole. one of the most horrible, squat, dirty airports i have ever been in.

  11. It’s a shame Cardiff City Council chickened out of the project. It would have been an awesome addition to our public transport (transit) systems.

    Cardiff’s great, but sometimes we fail miserably.

  12. Don’t need the concrete guideways. I can buy a podcar today that will drive around my neighborhood, but the local DMV won’t grant a robot driving privileges.

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