ULTra Personal Pod Driverless Taxis Here!
SF fans are patient (sometimes), which is a good thing regarding the ULTra Personal Pods that have been in the planning stage for what seems like a long time (see ULTra PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) Planned For London and ULTra - driverless automatic taxi for more info).
(ULTra personal pod taxis)
Apparently, Heathrow Airport is just now putting ULTra personal pod driverless taxis into service. Fully autonomic and battery-powered, they have everything but a robotic driver, which spares us the dark thoughts of Philip K. Dick's robot taxi drivers from his 1952 short story A Present for Pat:
"Robots have no wives," the driver said. "They are nonsexual. Robots have no friends, either. They are incapable of emotional relationships."
"Can robots be fired?"
"Sometimes." The robot drew his cab up before Eric's modest six-room bungalow. "But consider. Robots are frequently melted down and new robots made from the remains. Recall Ibsen's Peer Gynt, the section concerning the Button Molder. The lines clearly anticipate in symbolic form the trauma of robots to come."
"Yeah." The door opened and Eric got out. "I guess we all have our problems."
"Robots have worse problems than anybody." The door shut and the cab zipped off, back down the hill.
(Read more about PKD's robot cab)
The ULTra Personal Pods are probably closer to Larry Niven's bubble cars from World out of Time (1976) or the tin cabbie from James Blish's 1957 novel Cities in Flight:
The cab came floating down out of the sky at the intersection and maneuvered itself to rest at the curb next to them with a finicky precision. There was, of course, nobody in it; like everything else in the world requiring an IQ of less than 150, it was computer-controlled...
Chris studied the cab with the liveliest interest, for though he had often seen them before from a distance, he had of course never ridden in one. But there was very little to see. The cab was an egg-shaped bubble of light metals and plastics, painted with large red-and-white checkers, with a row of windows running all around it. Inside, there were two seats for four people, a speaker grille, and that was all: no controls and no instruments...
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