Silicon Valley looks at pod cars

October 27, 2010 7:27:38 PM PDT
Pod cars promise the convenience of a car with the environmental benefits of mass transit and could be part of the future of transportation in the South Bay.

Promotional video from UK-based ULTra PRT shows its pod car system at Heathrow Airport.

"Pod cars are zero emissions, more efficient, lightweight, more convenient for people," ULTra PRT President of Sales Nick Ford said.

Ford and other pod car industry executives, possible customers and people from the Silicon Valley's high-tech companies are gathered in San Jose for the pod car conference.

"The companies in the Silicon Valley can drive the pod car industry to new heights from where it is now," Hans Larsen said.

Larsen is acting director of San Jose's Department of Transportation. He says the new transportation industry could be good for the local economy.

The Valley Transit Authority is paying for a nearly $2 million feasibility study on whether pod cars might be the best way to link Mineta International Airport with Caltrain, light rail and future BART stations.

"It is a new technology some have some compared to something you might see on the Jetsons," Larsen said.

Pod cars are described as personal taxis; they wait for you and take you to your destination with no stopping to drop off anyone else along the way.

"You can enjoy your journey in comfort, no harassing, you don't have to sit next to that gentleman who hasn't washed that morning," pod car enthusiast Robert Lohmann said.

The conference begins Wednesday night with a public forum at the Tech Museum. San Jose's feasibility study will be done in about a year.


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