When you think public transit, you probably think clunky-looking vehicles like flex buses and old-fashioned trolleys. But Global's pod system at Heathrow, with its bullet-headed, gleaming metallic vehicles, affects a streamlined futuristic look that wouldn't be out of place in a cinematic sci-fi thriller [source: Good]. The Pinaforma-Vectus PRT concept is even more avant garde, with pods in a truncated wedge shape and floor-to-roof glass doors [source: Weiss].
Both existing and proposed designs for PRTs, in fact, look at least a little like bigger versions of the Mini Cooper and the Smart car -- or better yet, the "city" or "urban" concept cars developed by automakers, which have similarly blunted, streamlined shapes. One particularly PRT-like vehicle is GM's EN-V concept car, a podlike two-seater whose twin Segway-style wheels are powered by an electric motor running on lithium-phospate batteries. Unveiled at the Shaghai World Expo in May 2010, the EN-V has a lot in common with PRT systems technologically, as well. Like a PRT, an EN-V can drive in robot mode, with a central computer network controlling its movements. It also would be equipped with sensors to communicate with other vehicles and traffic signals, and a wireless Internet connection that would allow passengers to hold video conferences while on the move. The EN-V would be capable of much more complicated maneuvers than a PRT, since it wouldn't be on a rail system -- including the ability to make 360-degree turns on its twin wheels. However, like PRTs, the EN-V would require an elaborate infrastructure to operate [source: Scott].
Author's Note: 5 Similarities Between PRTs and Cars
I've owned a number of cars over the years, from a purple 1972 AMC Hornet that my dad bought for me for $400 when I was a college sophomore, to a 1988 Volkswagen Golf that had the most uncomfortable seats I've ever had the misfortune to sit in and an alarm system that sometimes mysteriously went off when I was driving down the highway. Today, my family has a Toyota Prius, which my wife mostly uses to drive to work. As a self-employed person who works at home, I find that I really don't need a car that much. When I do need to go somewhere, Washington, D.C. has an excellent public transit system.
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