India, Three Companies Approved to Test Driverless Pods

India, Three Companies Approved to Test Driverless Pods :The National Institution for Transforming India, established by the Narendra Modi government on 1 January 2015 and better known as NITI Aayog, has approved testing of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems for a 13 km long project from the Gurugram-Delhi border to Badshahpur Mod.

PRT is a driverless public transport system that features compact vehicles that typically transport a small number of passengers directly to their destination, with no intermediate stops.

The complete proposed system would have thirteen stations and 1,100 pods, according to an Indian Transport Ministry official. Minimum expected operational speed would be 75 km/h.

The three companies that have obtained approval are:

Metrino PRT, a Polish company that promotes a system developed by inventor Olgierd Mikosza
skyTran, a NASA Space Act company, headquartered at the NASA Ames Research Center near Mountain View, California
ULTra Global PRT, a spinoff from Advanced Transport Group, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

A NITI Aayog committee of experts headed by V.K. Saraswat approved all three companies after they made presentations. NITI Aayog decided that the proposed technologies should be tested on a pilot 1 km distance, with the bidders covering all costs. Successful testing would then be extended to 15-20 km.

In March 2010, the government of Haryana said that it was looking into a proposal to deploy the ULTra system for rapid commuter transport in the city of Gurgaon.

In September 2010 former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had proposed the idea of utilizing pods in Gurugram.

In February 2015 Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had considered the Metrino system to transport passengers between Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan and Manesar in Gurugram (approximately 70 km).

A Metrino system was announced in July 2016 to connect Gurugram to Delhi, after four bids were received to implement the system. However the implementation is reportedly pending a report from V.K. Saraswat to the Transport Ministry.

A Metrino system had also been considered to connect the Golden Temple with Amritsar Railway Station, but has been abandoned (at least for now) due to cost considerations.

It remains to be seen which of the three approved companies will go ahead and invest in the 1 km trial. There is reportedly some skepticism at the Transport Ministry regarding the companies’ willingness to invest and demonstrate their technology.

Only four limited implementations of a PRT system are known to be operational today:

The oldest PRT system, a 5,8 km track with five stations, has been in continuous operation at the West Virginia University in Morgantown since 1975
The 1.4 km long, two station, Masdar City 2getthere system in the UAE opened to the general public on 28 November 2010
ULTra’s 3.8 km long, three station, London Heathrow Airport PRT system opened in May 2011
The 4.6 km long Suncheon (South Korea) Skycube also has two stations and opened in April 2014

Thales was awarded a contract in April 2014 to modernize the West Virginia University Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) network operating on the campus.

Metrino PRT

Metrino is a PRT system developed in Poland that employs a pod suspended from a rail to carry up to five passengers and features a unique method of rail switching. Traction is electrical and has a design speed of 60 km/h. Before October 2014 it was known as MISTER (“Metropolitan Individual System of Transportation on an Elevated Rail”).

skyTran’s “jet-like” pods employ Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) technology and can carry two to four passengers. The MagLev technology allows pods to travel in an energy efficient manner at up to 240 km/h.

The open source design technology is based on a white paper published by inventor and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

ULTra’s first commercially operational pod system carries 800 passengers per day between Heathrow Terminal 5 and the terminal’s Business Car Park. The system consists of 21 vehicles, a total of 3.8 km of one-way guideway and three stations – two in the car park and one at T5.

“Ultra pods” are rubber-tyred, battery-powered vehicles, capable of carrying four passengers and their luggage, fully compliant with disability legislation. They operate at a speed of 45 km/h.

Writer: John Carlo Ottaviani

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