Both Could Be Filled With Wireless Communications Gadgetry
The Ultra PRT system features lots of electronic bells and whistles. A crash avoidance system equipped with sensors is programmed to spot other vehicles. A wireless communication setup allows passengers to communicate both via voice and data with the central station. And flat-panel video screens and audio speakers play music and video clips and display information for travelers. There's also the option of installing a "smart card" system that allows passengers to store their musical preferences on their personal cards, so that when they get into a pod, it'll automatically fire up a specific tune [source: Ultra].
But PRTs would be a little ahead of the curve of today's cars when it comes to wireless electronic gadgetry, since unlike the latter, they would be driverless robotic vehicles, part of a fleet operated by a central computer network. Automakers actually have been looking into developing similar networked systems and robotic autopilots for cars that would operate on regular roads. One recent study by the German automaker Opel concluded that even connecting 5 percent of cars to such a system would potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs, because it would enable traffic to flow more efficiently [source: Battles]. But there are undoubtedly a lot of kinks that have to be worked out before we unleash robot cars on the streets, where they'll have to contend with reckless human drivers akin to the speed-loving "little old lady from Pasadena" who was immortalized in the 1960s Beach Boys song. Pods on a rail system, in contrast, can rely on remote control with less potential for mishaps.