The British Airports Authority is to pilot a new type of public transport, designed by Advanced Transport Systems, at London’s Heathrow airport in 2008.
ATS has created a transit system featuring driverless pods that travel at up to 26mph along a concrete track, at an optimum interval of three seconds apart.
Powered by battery-operated electric engines, the four-seater pods will link passengers from the car park to either Terminal 1 or Terminal 5 – a decision on the exact route has yet to be finalised. The two-mile journey should take less than three minutes.
Passengers enter their destination using touch screens and computers deliver the pod to the departure and arrival stations in non-stop journeys. Stations are effectively lay-bys, which ensures that a single delay does not interrupt the journeys of other pods.
According to ATS non-executive director Nigel Clarke, the system is cost-effective to introduce and uses modern technology to reduce waiting times and improve comfort.
‘At the moment we are using 19th and 20th century technology to solve 21st century transport problems,’ says Clarke. ‘This system uses 21st century technology, particularly IT developments, for controlling cars on the track.
‘There are no power requirements as the cars are battery-operated and load-bearing needs are very light, similar to a footbridge, so the system can be installed quickly and cost effectively,’ he adds.
The design of the pods can be varied from project to project, Clarke says, to meet individual requirements – such as luggage needs at airports.
If the 12-month pilot scheme is successful, a roll out across Heathrow and other BAA-operated airports is likely.