Ultra pods are a new type of transportation technology, which consists of small, lightweight, driverless electric vehicles running on special-purpose guideways. An Ultra pod provides on-demand, non-stop transportation in your own personal vehicle.
The first fully-operational commercial Ultra pod system is at London's Heathrow Airport linking the T5 Business Car Park to the Terminal 5.
No, Ultra pods are guided entirely by computers and the network as a whole is monitored at all times by control room staff.
By not using drivers we provide a system that is able to transport high frequencies of passengers straight to their individual destinations quickly and without waiting. If such a system were to use drivers then it would require hundreds of staff and would be operationally inefficient. The implementation of computer technology has also helped to make the system safer, as it is much less prone to human error
Safety is Ultra’s first priority; all aspects of the system’s design, construction and operation have been assessed by an independent group of experienced and knowledgeable industry professionals known as the Safety Verification Team. Throughout the system’s development, Ultra gained the appropriate regulatory approvals. The vehicles operate on an exclusive guideway using three levels of automatic control, and the network is monitored at all times by control room staff.
Every vehicle is equipped with a "help" button which instantly puts the passenger in audio and visual contact with a network operator, who can provide assistance in an emergency. If necessary, the operators can redirect a vehicle to a different station or to waiting security personnel. This helps to ensure passenger safety. Additionally, all elements of the system — vehicles, guideway, and stations — are covered by CCTV.
Ultra’s system is highly reliable and minimises the possibility of breakdown. Each pod has an on-board computer that automatically detects maintenance issues so that the unit can be taken out of service before a problem develops. In the extremely unlikely event that a vehicle does break down a service vehicle can be sent to retrieve it. The vehicles also have emergency exits and the guideway does have escape routes, however passengers should stay in their pods at all times where possible.
Ultra pods are 100% electrically powered, using batteries that are recharged whenever the vehicle is parked at a station. The batteries provide an average 2KW of motive power, only adding 8% to the gross weight of the vehicle.
The maximum speed is 25 mph. Once an Ultra pod departs its station of origin, it does not stop again until it reaches its destination. In congested urban areas, this makes Ultra considerably faster than private cars, and much faster than most trains or buses.
An Ultra pod can carry up to four passengers at once; the interior’s open design and flat floor means that there is plenty of room wheelchairs, pushchairs and passenger luggage.
The cost of an Ultra pod system can depend on a number of factors, although approximately $7M - $15M per km is typical. In a place where any tunnelling or extensive customisation is required then the costs will be higher.
Ultra’s pods would never run along existing roads. The system relies on a central computer controlling all movements on a pre-set guideway. By operating without drivers, on its own off-road guideway, the system offers safety and efficiency benefits.
Ultra uses small lightweight pods that travel on their own special guideway, making the system safer and more efficient. The guideways can be customised to suit a variety of environments.
At times; there will be places where it is elevated and other places where it is at ground level, below ground, and possibly even inside buildings, depending on the surrounding environment and practical application.
No, it is not a monorail. Monorails use large vehicles, travelling on heavy guideways, carrying large groups of people along pre-determined routes at pre-scheduled times, with many stops along the way. Ultra uses small vehicles, travelling on lightweight guideways, carrying individuals or small groups along user-determined routes, on demand and with no intermediate stops.
Undergrounding is possible, where appropriate, but constructing the system will cost more if tunnelling is required. Elevated guideway is more cost-efficient and should be used wherever possible.
Ultra is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transit ever invented. It is 50% more energy-efficient than buses or trains, and provides a 70% reduction in carbon emissions over the car, meeting Kyoto 2050 sustainability targets.
Ultra pods utilise 0.55 MJ/passenger km, compared to between 1.2 and 2.4 MJ/passenger km for other forms of public transport, making them at least 50% more energy-efficient than buses, trains or trams.
Ultra is typically around 70% more energy-efficient than cars, and the saving is even greater in peak periods when cars are restricted by congestion.
Ultra’s modular approach enables a straightforward adoption of new technologies if they are available in a practical form that enables useful environmental benefits.
Ultra’s electrically powered pods are very quiet. The noise has been compared to that of a bicycle, effectively inaudible from more than a few meters away.
Ultra’s guideways are approximately 2.1m (7 feet) wide, including the outer kerbs. This is approximately 30% narrower than a typical road lane.
Ultra’s guideway is approximately 30% narrower than a typical road lane. Present estimates indicate that in order to serve an urban area, only one single-lane Ultra guideway is required for every six existing roads. Ultra also intends to make better use of existing transport rights of way, such as the space beside railway lines or major roads.
In studies conducted by independent consultants, PRT networks have been estimated to decrease car trips by 10% to 30% or more, with an average decrease of 15%.
Yes. Ultra vehicles are spacious enough to carry multiple bicycles on-board. The implementation of the system also helps to reduce the number of cars on the roads, making cycling more attractive.
In studies conducted by independent consultants, Ultra found that its system will increase the ridership of all public transport by increasing the viability of transit services across the board, including buses.
A bus or train is only available at a predetermined time and for a predetermined route; an Ultra pods system is available when you want it, providing a non-stop journey only to your chosen destination. However, the system is most effective when used in combination with existing forms of transport; Ultra pods are not better than a bus or train, but is designed to perform a different role. Rail or bus can provide long-distance links down existing corridors, while Ultra pods offer an efficient, local area network linkage.
Ultra’s pods system is most beneficial when established over a specific area for a particular application. The pods are not intended to replace buses and trains, which can operate on a far larger scale, but instead aims to complement them by providing an on-demand service for localised areas with high-frequency travel requirements.