In sci-fi from "The Jetsons" to Minority Report, writers and artists have envisioned a world in which personal, private transportation has the convenience of public transportation. Now, those visions are one (small) step closer to reality. One company, writes Jay Cassano for Co.Labs, is starting work on solar-powered commuter pods that will soon be tested in Secaucus, New Jersey.
These JPods are kind of like a cross between a subway system and a taxi. The pods are private, like a taxi, and carry you to a destination of your choosing. But that destination has to be somewhere along a network of JPod tracks, and you board and exit the pods at pre-determined stations. Board a pod at a station, enter your destination, and you’re off—an express train to exactly where you want to go, powered entirely by solar power.
That's the idea, anyway. It sounds like science fiction, and like some of the best science fiction out there, it was inspired by very real problems society is facing in the present day.
"We're a bunch of West Point grads that looked at this situation and realized we've been fighting oil wars since 1990,” JPods' CEO, Bill James, told Co.Labs. “So we decided to do something about it. Our point of view on this thing as veterans is that we need to be looking ahead at what causes the path to war and act in advance of it.”
The project will be tested in Secaucus, N.J, a notoriously traffic-heavy place just outside of New York City. Secaucus also faced gas shortages after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, so testing a transportation option that doesn’t rely on gas is appealing.
While solar power is a new feature, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems have been discussed and tested for some time. One system in West Virginia has been in use since the 1970s. And other companies are building PRT systems around the world. One in South Korea transports people to an ecological park. There's a PRT system in Abu Dhabi and ground transportation to parking lots at London’s Heathrow Airport.