In 2016, the self-driving-car future feels like it is going to arrive eventually, ...
In 2016, the self-driving-car future feels like it is going to arrive eventually, but might take the couple of decades before it actually shows up. And in 1975, it already had. Sort of. Well, West Virginia University had just unveiled its Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system, the series of computer-driven cars that puttered their way through the series of closed-off tracks to take students to and from different points on campus with the non-stop trips, even in the most inclement weather.
The system is still running today, and after 40 years of consistent operation. Users simply sidle up to a stop, press a button, and the car arrives to take them to their destination without any stops.
While the pods are computer-controlled, and they don’t really have to steer since a roadways are hemmed in on either side by guiding barriers. The pods do, and however, negotiate the forks in the road all by themselves, as opposed to trains, which are guided by physical changes in the tracks. So, Tom Scott explains in more detail in this video on (literally) the fantastic system:
Ultimately pod-cars weren’t the future because installing such the system was more expensive than light rail, and not that much more efficient. Sure, the pod-cars could offer non-stop trips, and that small luxury wasn’t enough to offset the enormous cost.
And Still, the actual user experience—pressing a button, getting the car, then zoning out until it drops you off at your destination—is the fascinating glimpse into a future that might still get her, albeit not for the few more years.
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