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U.K. town will build driverless podcar system

Posting in Cities

Driverless cars are coming to one town in the United Kingdom faster than you might imagine.

Milton Keynes, a town of more than 200,000 people, announced that it will begin a pilot program for a transit system that uses driverless, electric podcars starting in 2015.

The £65 million pilot project will use 100 podcars (that can hold two passenger each) which can be summoned by a smartphone. The initial test will have the podcars travel on a one mile route between the city's train station and shopping centers and offices. Each ride will cost £2. The pilot will run for two years and continue if the test run is positive, possibly even spreading to other cities in the U.K.

The Automotive Council UK is behind the project, in collaboration with Cambridge University and engineering firm Arup, and chose the town because of its wide roadways.

Driverless podcars aren't new. There's been a system in place at West Virginia University since 1975 and Heathrow Airport also has a podcar system. Still, the U.K. believes there is potential with driverless podcar systems. As U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

"It is important that the UK continues to innovate and is at the cutting edge of new technologies.

Driverless cars have the potential to generate the kind of high skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for as well as cutting congestion, reducing pollution and improving road safety."

It's not clear at this point which podcars will be used. One option could be Ultra Global, which has driverless podcars at Heathrow Airport and India. The other might be GM's Chevrolet EN-V, which the company is still developing.

Photo: GM

— By on November 6, 2013, 5:54 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure