The thought of a driverless, computer-guided car transporting people is futuristic to some.
To Jacob Roberts, podcars represent an important component in the here-and-now of transportation.
“It's time we design cities for the human, not for the automobile,” said Roberts, president of Connect Ithaca, a group of planning and building professionals, activists and students committed to making this upstate New York college town the first U.S. podcar community.
Roberts and his colleagues think the future is now for the electric, automated, lightweight vehicles that ride on their own network separate from other traffic.
Unlike mass transit, podcars carry two to 10 passengers. At stations located every block or half-mile, depending on the need, a rider enters a destination on a computerized pad, and a car takes the person nonstop to the destination.
A version was built in 1975 in Morgantown, W.Va., and still transports West Virginia University students. Next year, Heathrow Airport outside London will unveil a pilot podcar system. Companies in Sweden, Poland and Korea are already operating full-scale test tracks.
In Ithaca, a network could connect the downtown business district and main business boulevard with the campuses of Cornell University and Ithaca College, which sit on nearby hillsides.