Wednesday 22 February 2017

Navette Autonome (1)

Fond Memories of KITT?
KITT is the short name of two fictional characters from the adventure TV series Knight Rider.

While having the same acronym, the KITTs are two different entities: one known as the Knight Industries Two Thousand, which appeared in the original TV series Knight Rider, and the other as the Knight Industries Three Thousand, which appeared first in the two-hour 2008 pilot film for a new Knight Rider TV series and then the new series itself. In both instances, KITT is an artificially intelligent electronic computer module in the body of a highly advanced, very mobile, robotic automobile: the original KITT as a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am ...
... and the second KITT as a 2008/2009 Ford Shelby GT500KR.
KITT was voiced by William Daniels in the original series ...
... and by Val Kilmer in the 2008 series.
fbb was a secret fan of the first KITT, but his enthusiasm was closeted until three sons discovered the repeats; then the chubby one "had to watch to keep the boys company".
We used to call it Google and it still is, but became a wholly owned subsidiary developing a driverless car.
Uber has a Ford Fusion Hybrid in prototype form as a car that looks frighteningly Kitt-like.
Where KITT had that ominous pulsating red scanner on the front (very scary!), the Uber car has a mound of clutter on the roof. The Google version makes do with a small upside down yoghurt pot on the top and something else black and technological between its headlights.

Short run driverless trains at airports are now as common as mud ...
... and metro systems without a visible means of support are spreading world-wide. Here is a list of systems in Europe.
By far the most spectacular are the two Paris Metro lines (1 and 14).
fbb has ridden both and lived to tell the tale.

But, of course, all these modes are constrained by rails and a simple end to end route with no other vehicles or pedestrians to impede their automatic progress.

Enter Leon Daniels, VIP of Transport for London ...
... speaking at the posh Confederation of Passenger Transport dinner back in January and quoted in Buses magazine.
Uber might be described as a tsunami but driverless cars are only a very feeble dribble at the moment. But we keep being told that it will all be happening "just round the corner". The Buses magazine quote was part of an article on the first appearance of a driverless bus.

It was at Heathrow.

As a taster, Heathrow already has a driverless vehicle system which has been operating for some time. Here is where it runs ...
... linking Terminal 5 to some car parks.
And here is what runs on the elevated track.
Definitely driverless (autonomous), possibly can be considered as public transport and equally certainly running along a road. But, again, there is no other traffic, no wandering pedestrians and no badly parked white vans to get in the way.

All we have to do is to transfer Heathrow's "Pods" onto a real road with all the obstructions and dangers that such an environment might offer and, bingo, we have driverless buses; but small and "perfectly formed".

Tomorrow we take a short nip around the perimeter road from Terminal 5 to the Compass Centre.

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Thursday 23rd February 


  1. It would be interesting to know how these are guided. Do they respond to the surroundings (as in a genuine driverless car), or are they more like those vehicles which were around in the 60s, following cables or coils embedded in the road?

  2. Guided by pre-programed computer program containing a VERY detailed equivalent of a Sat Nav! This is then "read" in connection with a radar scan if the area surrounding the "pod".

  3. UltraGlobalPRT's own publicity describes the guidance system as using "laser sensors to guide the vehicle on its path" and that the kerbs of the guideway are essential for that system. It also categorically states that "Ultra’s pods would never run along existing roads. The system relies on a central computer controlling all movements on a pre-set guideway."
    I visited the test track somewhere in Cardiff Bay and rode on a prototype pod, maybe 15 years ago, and being rather sceptical of the commercial potential. The fact that only one system has been installed in the UK in the interim years would seem to justify that scepticism.

    1. That's called the Docklands Light Railway!!!!!

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