New solar-powered commuter pods are being described as "something out of the Jetsons." JPods, which were recently featured in Fast Company, combine light rail and self-driving vehicles to take commuters to their destinations while suspended above city roads.
The private transit system was inspired by the way individuals and groups of friends travel together in a single car. The pods then navigate along the rail network to get you as close to your destination as possible (which users input using an interactive touchscreen). Without set stations and switch points, this is likely to get commuters closer to their destinations than traditional public transit.
And thanks to solar panels above the rails, the entire system will likely be able to sustain itself, even as it grows. Not only does this concept provide a more comfortable and faster solution to subways, streetcars and buses, but it also helps to soften the reliance on oil. A fully sustainable network of transit pods would help cities reduce their carbon footprints.
Founder and CEO of JPods Bill James refers to the network as an "intelligent transport system." The system is built on distributed communication, which allows individual pods to talk to each other. This helps to create an on-demand service that is also safe, as its technology ensures pods can merge into each others' paths without colliding.
JPods will run its first pilot program in Secaucus, N.J., a town just outside Manhattan whose roads are plagued with constant gridlock.
“Combining solar and relatively small mass transit modules to get from point A to point B fits in especially well with some of the needs we have here,” says Secaucus town administrator David Drumeler. “With our commercial district relatively close but far enough that you couldn't walk there, an almost on-demand type of mass transit system is an ideal fit for us.”
The first JPods to be rolled out in Secaucus are called Rescue-Rail, which is a lightweight system designed to be deployed quickly and temporarily. James says this systems could eventually be used in disaster relief situations or even at major events like the Super Bowl.
See how JPods would work in the video below.