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Pod Cars have new champion in Silicon Valley
Original post made
on Sep 4, 2013
Mountain View may be alien territory for the Pod People, but the Pod Car? Maybe not. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, there was talk of a futuristic transportation system that could reduce traffic and the number of employee shuttles in northern Mountain View.
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posted Wednesday, September 4, 2013, 1:44 PM
Posted by James Anderson Merritt
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm
Self-driving cars are cool, but they still use the same roads that every other type of vehicle will need to share, and will be as vulnerable to traffic problems as other vehicles, unless they get their own dedicated lanes, another name for "guideways."
PRT guideways are ideally elevated, so that they minimize the amount of ground-level right-of-way that is needed. I think I would rather have an elevated guideway traveled by modern-looking PRT pods alongside my house, than a city street that is choked with traffic two or three times a day, as is now the case. If a pod system could reduce traffic on that street, so much the better.
Some versions of PRT elevate most of the guideway, but allow the vehicles to "dip down" to ground level to load and unload, dispensing with the need for elevators, escalators, stairs, or long ramps. Such points need to be considered when selecting a PRT version and vendor.
The bulkiness and cost of the guideway also depend on the version and vendor selected. As far as the means for exiting a stalled pod, in many (perhaps most) cases, another vehicle can push a malfunctioning vehicle to the nearest system entry/exit point, up to 1/2 mile away. In other cases, e.g., major guideway obstruction, it would probably be better to drive a cherry-picker to the point of obstruction and haul stranded passengers down. Since the guideway is constructed as a network (ideally, a grid), traffic can be diverted around any obstruction, while blocked vehicles can back away and resume their travels via alternative routes. My point is that there can be little or no actual need for bulky infrastructure that includes escape stairways or elevators.
PRT infrastructure and vehicles don't need to be ugly. They can harmonize with surroundings much better than the roads and street traffic that might otherwise be in their place.
Optimum PRT is built around a gridwork of guideways (about 1/2 mile apart in cross-wise directions), which features many system entry/exit points, each about 1/4 mile from grid intersections on either side, rather than just a few big "stations." Because vehicles arrive quickly, on demand, anywhere in the network, the distribution of passenger loading and unloading helps make it possible to handle a lot of traffic, even during periods of peak demand, without the need for huge vehicles or stations. If one entry/exit point is busy, due to unforeseen, surge demand, the entry/exit points are close enough (for instance, at opposite ends of a park or major shopping center) that you can walk to or from a neighboring one. You can enter the system anywhere and go anywhere, no need to transfer.
PRT systems are getting built. In addition to the grandfather of them all, the overbuilt but reliable-and-safe-for-decades Morgantown WV system, there are now systems in London at Heathrow Airport, Masdar City in , and Suncheon Bay in South Korea. The system at Heathrow has proven so successful -- cost-efficient and popular -- that plans are being made to expand it throughout the airport, while nearby neighborhoods are expressing interest in having the Heathrow Pods system expand into the suburbs surrounding the airport. Actual costs of construction for these several systems (each using a different PRT approach from a different vendor) support the $60M-130M estimated cost range for a Mountain View system. If costs were to rise significantly above that estimate, I would suspect politics or regulatory compliance expenses as the culprits.