India Launches the World’s Largest System of Pod Cars
January 9, 2012
Renderings: DCA Design International Limited
Following the launch and success of the automated transport pods at London’s Heathrow International Airport last spring, the Punjab government has broken ground on the world’s first urban Passenger Rapid Transport (PRT) system in Amritsar, India. According to the New York Times, nearly 200 automated electric pods will pass over the 3.3-kilometer (2 mile) long elevated tracks, ferrying 100,000 people to and from seven stations including the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs. The decision to adopt the system of silent fully automated zero-emission vehicles is part of an urban strategy that seeks to combat traffic congestion and the subsequent pollution effected during festival days, when the number of visitors balloons to 500,000. ULTra Fairwood, the company behind the pods, believes that the benefits beget by the new infrastructure will engender a surge in tourism, leading to increased profits for local businesses.
The pods will share the same technology hardwired in the Heathrow pods, save for a few upgrades that will help better acclimate the vehicles to the Indian climate. The pod air-conditioning was reconsidered to handle the region’s 50 degree Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures, while the tracks were re-engineered to take into account other extreme weather conditions such as monsoons. The vehicles were also expanded to accommodate 6 seats, up from the 4 carried by their Heathrow counterparts. ULTra claims that fares will rival those of existing motorized forms of public transport, while local officials have suggested that each pod will function as a “personal taxi” with “demand-responsive” capabilities that will allow users to bypass stops altogether along their route. Supported by private funds, ULTra will build the project, with an expected completion date of 2014. The company, which is presently in talks with other Asian cities for future pod-car systems, will license its technology to the Punjab government and continue operating the venture for 30 years.