Monday, October 22, 2012

PRT 2.0

I used to go on at length about PRT. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know what I'm talking about. PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) is a transit concept whose time has (had?) come due to advances in technology. Think self-driving electric pod vehicles on their own private elevated road. Last mile transit to get you where bus can't get you fast enough. It's a great idea. But further advances in technology are making the concept redundant far faster than people are warming up to the PRT idea in the first place.

I'm talking about self-driving cars like the kind Google are developing. First, let's talk about what you need for PRT. You need private guideways. They're not cheap, but they are cheaper than track. They use up about as much space as a wide sidewalk and can be elevated. Then you need the pod cars themselves. It's like re-inventing the wheel, because PRT vehicles are still using the boundary technologies that aren't yet perfected and price-normalized from mass production. In other words, electric, rechargeable, battery-operated cars with autonomous driving capability in a brand new chassis is expensive.

Google decided to approach the self-driving vehicle from a different perspective. Let's not re-invent the road, or the wheel. Let's just make the existing wheel smarter. So they are building and testing cars that can drive themselves. This means you could deploy self-driving cars on existing roads (or a few private ones if you wish - or both) and achieve the same end result. A vehicle that takes you from point A to B while you check your Facebook news feed or have a snooze. Because they are focusing their development on the self-driving brain and sensors of an existing car (they're using the Pruis), it is likely that the cost will drop dramatically as soon as these things are mass produced.

I call it PRT 2.0, and this version is even better because anyone could hypothetically buy one. No permits for guideways, no control centre, nothing extra. Just a truly smart car. The writing is on the wall. Because someone I know who used to focus on a particular PRT company is now consulting for Google's self-driving car project.

1 comment:

Retro Blog said...

Yeah I have dreamed of a self driving care. Eventually it should be mandatory for teenage drivers, incapable drivers on taking a nap? Priceless. I also think the track thing is still highly appplicable for crowded places like air ports and big cities. Yeah.