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Driverless Pod Cars Transport Passengers Around London's Heathrow Airport

• Rebecca Boyle via PopSci.com
 

Driverless cars are just catching on in this country, but they’re already zooming around London’s main airport, ferrying passengers from their people-driven cars to the terminal.

Twenty-two of these automated pods are operating at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the shiny new terminal occupied by British Airways. They were built to replace a duo of diesel buses that formerly drove in a loop from the car parks to the terminal, pausing at various stations no matter how many people were present.

The electric-power pods, which can accommodate up to four travelers and their bags, travel up to 25 mph along 2.4 miles of paved guideways, which can be customized to fit any path. They don’t require a special railway or magnetic field — just lines that can be used for optical navigation. The pods can even maneuver through light snow, according to their manufacturer, ULTra PRT. The New York Times says the autonomous pods have not been in any accidents.

The first trials started in April, and service became fully operational this summer when the buses were removed from rotation, the Times says.
 
 

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