POD (Pods on Demand) are fully autonomous, electrically driven vehicles that seat up to four people in comfort. They have been used at Heathrow Terminal 5 since 2011 and have a reliability record of over 99% - far higher than any bus or rail system.
The journey time is the same as a bus would be, but there is no waiting, so the time from parking a car to arriving at the terminal is more than halved. There are two types of POD...
The version at Heathrow is fully autonomous, but uses guideways with sensors to wirelessly tell the pod where it is and give it instructions to speed up, slow down, turn and stop. The information is relayed to the sensors from a central control room.
The version demonstrated in Greenwich in 2017 dispenses with the external sensors. Instead the vehicle has its own sensors and a highly-detailed 3D map of the area. It decides for itself on the route to take, and how to interact with other road users - it can safely share a road or path with pedestrians, cyclists and animals, knowing when it is safe to move, and when it has to stop.
"They have been used at Heathrow Terminal 5 since 2011 and have a reliability record of over 99% - far higher than any bus or rail system"
- JULIAN TURNER, CEO
Buyers of POD can choose which version is right for them. They can choose to use existing infrastructure (some local authorities are considering replacing trams with pods, but keeping the existing tramways), or they can use the self-contained pods in areas where there is no current rail infrastructure.
In the near future, there will be bigger versions of the vehicles, seating up to 12 people.
Number of PODs at Heathrow
Reliability record over 2 years
CO2 savings compared to buses