Driverless Transport Pods Finally Starting to Catch On

Small, driverless pods that take us directly to our destinations? Personal Rapid Transit is a reality in England, Sweden, and soon, South Korea.


The age of Personal Rapid Transit has gotten off to an uneven start. There was quite a bit of excitement that PRTs—small, driverless pods that take passengers directly to their destination without stops—would be the dominant mode of transportation in the United Arab Emirates’ futuristic Masdar City, but that plan ultimately got scaled back in a big way. There hasn’t been much progress since then, but for a small PRT system opening at London’s Heathrow Airport.

But Personal Rapid Transit is now starting to spread to more countries, with the Italian firm Pininfarina Extra designing a PRT system for the South Korean transportation company Vectus. The system is already operating in Uppsala, Sweden, and another one will open soon in Suncheon, South Korea. The innovative public transit system offers the height of convenience—unlike always-running subway cars, the PRT vehicles wait at the station for passengers to show up, and if there isn’t a car there waiting for you, you can request one immediately. Each pod can hold up to six passengers.

You can only travel to destinations on a PRT system’s network, but the same is true of all public transit systems. And PRTs have a ton of obvious benefits—they help cut down on air pollution, they’re quiet, and they’re comfortable and convenient. The idea has been slow to spread, but perhaps these latest developments are a sign that interest is growing.

Video via PSFK