Self-Driving Pods: The Autonomous Future (and Now) of Public Transit

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You’ve surely heard of them before, though perhaps you haven’t seen them cruising around your streets with a mind of their own just yet: self-driving pods. These autonomous vehicles are currently being tested in various cities and countries around the world, and while they are creating quite the whirr in media outlets and surprising citizens who are lucky enough to be testing them first, we recently read an article in the Verge that says they might just be, for lack of better words, kind of boring. Read on and decide for yourself whether self-driving pods are exciting, boring, or just plain terrifying.

The AV Public Transit Future: Self-Driving Pods

Current testing of autonomous pods

There are several tests going on around the world for self-driving pods, giving the citizens of the test city an early opportunity to get to know this future form of transportation. Some of the cities that are either currently undergoing a beta testing period include:

  • Dubai: Dubai has recently begun testing Next autonomous pods in a trial run in hopes to encourage its transformation to become one of the smartest cities in the world. To further this transformation, $410,000 has been invested for further R&D of autonomous public transit vehicles, and Dubai hopes to make 25% of their daily transportation self-driven by 2030. Dubai has also unveiled plans for a flying taxi!
  • United Kingdom: In London, there is currently a 3 year study into the responses of driverless technology being tested with low-speed autonomous pods being tested on the city’s cycle paths and walkways around the Greenwich peninsula. Another recent self-driving pod called Aurrigo just popped up in Milton Keynes, Southern England as well. Milton Keynes Council is working with Aurrigo to test out the self-driving pod as a solution for the first/last mile of public transportation for locals and visitors to the town.
  • Switzerland: Post Auto Smart Shuttle has been testing its self-driving pod in Switzerland, and as of October, 2017, SmartShuttle had transported 30,000 passengers at the maximum allowed speed of 20km/hour, for a total operation time of 2,500 hours or 7,000 kms. Read more about Post Auto in our post here. In addition, the Amotech bus is now taking people to the Rhine Falls and Olli in Zug travels between the train station and one of the biggest employers, VZug.

Plans for the future of self-driving pods

For those regions that aren’t currently beta testing a self-driving bus, many are planning to follow suit soon. A few of the interesting cases we have found for strategic plans to release an autonomous public transit solution include:

  • Next Self-Driving Pods: Tommaso Gecchelina and Emmanuele Spera are two Italian researchers working on the next generation of autonomous public transportation, which they’ve called Next. These pods, which are planned to release in 2020, can connect to one another (physically) while in motion, meaning that they can literally transform amongst various forms of transportation including a train, bus, or personal vehicle. These self-driving pods are also electric, and have six seats with additional standing room for an extra four people. Learn more about Next self-driving pods here.
  • Toyota’s Autonomous Pod Vision: Toyota’s vision for the self-driving pod of the future is a little more commerce-driven than most. This automotive giant’s vision for robotic van-like pods goes hand-in-hand with the creation of a mobility service platform for shared rides and e-commerce, with partners like Amazon, Uber, and Pizza Hut. Read more about Toyota’s vision here.

The dangers of driverless pods

A lot of people seem to be freaked out about the idea of riding around in their city in a form of public transportation that doesn’t have a driver conducting the wheel. The question is: are these fears unnecessary? There have been some accidents and a few deaths by AV, including a woman in Arizona who was killed by a self-driving Uber, which marked the first death by AV that was not an occupant, but no deaths reported so far for self-driving pods. Despite some accidents by self-driving pods, many believe they are still the future of public transportation.

Our opinion on av pods

So what do you think about self-driving pods? Our Founder, Sandra offers her opinion:

I believe that autonomous shuttles are the right way to introduce autonomous technology in our cities. These smaller vehicles can solve some of the first and last mile problems while at the same time being more efficient because they are shared amongst a group of people. I firmly believe that we have to focus on FAVES (Fleets of Autonomous Vehicles that are Electric and Shared) when introducing autonomous technology in dense cities and AV pods are a first step in the right direction.

Whether you are scared, excited, or simply bored by self-driving pods, we certainly want to hear your feedback. If you are interested in launching your own autonomous vehicle operation, get in touch with us here to see how we can help guide you through the process.

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