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Futuristic ULTra Sustainable Transport in the Here and Now

Future Green Public Transportation is Present

In operational testing since July, at Heathrow Airport in London, a network of personal driverless pods are taking passengers non-stop to their destinations, cutting down on congestion and pollution. ULTra (Urban Light Transport) is an innovative form of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). It is designed to meet the expectations of passengers – convenient, inexpensive, reliable, safe and easy to use, while also satisfying public demands for value for money, ease of construction and environmental benefit. As convenient as, or in congested environments more convenient than, the car, but with minimal environmental impact.

Advanced Transport Systems Ltd (ATS), headquartered in Bristol, England, began developing the ULTra personal rapid transit system in 1995 in association with the University of Bristol. A fleet of low power, electrically driven vehicles on a dedicated guideway network of routes. The operation of the system and movement of the vehicles on the network is managed by software and systems developed by ATS. The ULTra system utilizes modern computing and information technologies to provide a new approach to transport. Off-the-shelf technology, mostly from the automotive industry, provides mature, well proven and reliable systems and components.

The ULTra vehicles include heating and air conditioning, spacious with seats for 4 adults and ample space for shopping, pushchairs and luggage. It features a flat floor which aligns accurately with stations to allow safe easy access for push chairs, wheelchairs, luggage and people. The vehicle meets DDA and ADA access requirements. The system is available to all, including the young, the old, and those with disabilities. Controls, lighting and information systems are designed to the latest standards to aid usability. Disability groups have tested the system and commented very favorably.

ULTra provides a fully personal and secure service. Passengers have exclusive use of their vehicles and travel only with chosen companions. The system can readily be arranged to offer fully private vehicles and/or fully private stations not accessible to other users.

bridge 4The innovative design of the ULTra system provides unique advantages: ULTra can operate at-grade or elevated either within or external to buildings, offering the opportunity for significant benefits to the passenger. Low loading footprint means that the system can be carried by conventional building structure with no need for structural strengthening. The vehicle has a small (5 m / 16.4 ft), turning radius and readily copes with grades of 20%, although operating routes are limited to 10% to ensure passenger comfort. The ULTra system is highly adaptable. Modular design and construction techniques makes addition of further routes straightforward.

  • 450 kg (1,000 lb) payload
  • 40 kph (25 mph) maximum speed
    * Immediate service: Passengers rarely need to wait for a vehicle, since the empty vehicle management system ensures that one will already be at the station. Simulations demonstrate that average waiting times, even in peak periods, average less than 15 seconds.
  • Non stop travel: due to off-line stations, the journey is non stop from start to destination, anywhere on the network.
  • No need to plan trips, consider schedules, or transfer between vehicles.
  • Faster than other urban transport, typically by a factor of two or three. Although maximum speeds are modest (25 mph), non-stop service ensures short trip times.
  • Travel is reliable, predictable and congestion free affording passengers greater certainty in their journeys.
  • Travel is safe: ULTra’s target is safety levels at least as good as trains, approximately 10 times higher than automotive safety. Also segregation implies less conflict with non-users.

ULTra provides sustainable urban trans port with major benefits to non-users and to the community as a whole:

* ULTra is energy efficient: Light, small, efficient vehicles traveling non-stop and only on demand result in significant energy savings. ULTra saves 2/3 rds of automotive energy requirements, and is substantially more energy efficient than conventional public transport.

* ULTra meets Kyoto sustainability targets; providing the required 60% reduction in carbon emissions over the car now, rather than by the 2050 target date of the Kyoto agreement – 35 years ahead.

* ULTra is exceptionally quiet: measurements on the prototype vehicle running at 10m/s give 45dBA at 10 m, around 20 dB less than cars.

* Lightweight vehicles permit ultra-light infrastructure: Automated control allows high utilization. Small vehicles and guideways imply less land take and less visual intrusion.

* ULTra reduces congestion: Studies indicate significant shifts away from the car, freeing up both road capacity and parking space.

* Minimum visual intrusion: elevated sections of the guideway are only 45cms (18 inches) deep and can span 36m (118 ft) if required, while the vehicles are small and unobtrusive.

* Low cost and resource use. The infrastructure uses between one third and one tenth of the resources of competing form of transport providing major benefits in sustainability, cost and construction time.

Total investment on the project to date from all sources is around £15 m (23.87 million U.S. dollars).

The green transportation system of the future has arrived, at least at Heathrow Airport — as the green future unfolds!

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No Responses to “Futuristic ULTra Sustainable Transport in the Here and Now”

  1. Tweets that mention Futuristic ULTra Sustainable Transport in the Here and Now | -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by World Usability Day . World Usability Day said: #Wud2009 London's Heathrow: Futuristic ULTra Sustainable Transport in the Here and Now […]

  2. solarglobalgreen Says:

    I would be interested in seeing some hard emissions numbers on this system. It seems like for a project that size they could have utilized more renewable energy opportunities.

  3. Linda Says:

    Hi Solarglobalgreen … As with any testing, it will take time and will come out sooner than later. But here is a place that should give you what you are looking for:

  4. PRT Strategies Says:

    For more on Personal Rapid Transit (videos, links, studies):

  5. Cady Says:

    That sounds like an interesting vehicle.
    .-= Cady´s last blog ..31 Weeks =-.

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Cady … Only way to go.

  7. Robert Says:

    Don’t see why we can’t have that here in U.S. airports.
    .-= Robert´s last blog ..Are Running Shoes the Enemy? =-.

  8. Linda Says:

    Hi Robert …. I don’t either? Maybe some cities will look at it and agree to implement it!

    Hi Barbara …. I guess if you catch a tram in Atlanta that is pretty close for now….

    Hi Theresa … I agree! I guess it is gonna take some time.

    Hi caroline … heck why not! If it were even close to me I would!!!

  9. Barbara Says:

    I think the whole concept is a great idea. I agree with Robert. This would be a great asset to relieve airport congestion. We should have something like this, here in the U.S!
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Eco Stoves-Cheap and …Chic? =-.

  10. Theresa Cahill Says:

    This is so cool! I agree with everyone… the U.S. needs to hurry up and get with the program!
    .-= Theresa Cahill´s last blog ..Okay Not The Brightest Bulb =-.

  11. Caroline Says:

    Interesting and weird at the same time, but I guess if it works, saves money, is safe and gets me to were I need to be I would use it too.

  12. vein Says:

    They look very sci fi–I would love to ride in one 🙂
    .-= vein´s last blog ..Book Review: The Collected Erotica =-.

  13. Linda Says:

    Hi vein … I am sittin beside ya! I guess we will have to go across the pond to ride one!

    Hi corrin … They are cool lookin aren’t they.

    Hi Karen … Are you serious? I thought they did, my bad.

    Hi Tim … You are welcome and welcome to the green world!

  14. corrin Says:

    Those look really awesome!
    .-= corrin´s last blog ..Izeafest 2009 =-.

  15. Karen Says:

    That would be so nice to have in Indianapolis. Indy is the only large city without any mass transit system.

  16. Tim Says:

    As fast as technology moves and grows sometimes it isn’t fast enough. I look forward to a more sustainable future through effective technology. For now we can personally engage in sustainable action by simple activities like Eco-Running and Eco-Walking. Thanks for such a great site with lots of useful and interesting information.

  17. wilson Says:

    Linda, it’s a brilliant concept. Although the payload is not too large, but it’s able to carry at least five passengers, including the luggage! 🙂
    .-= wilson´s last blog ..Taking Medicines with Milk is not a Wise Idea! =-.

  18. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson … It certainly takes care of most needs of an airline passenger. I like it!

  19. Earth Friendly Goodies Says:

    Sounds like a fantastic system, but it makes me wonder at the rate of technology improvements these days what the future of mass transit will be. It seems by the time local governments approve and implement mass transit systems the technology is already outdated. I wonder how we can develop a national system that is easily upgraded with new technology. Are engineers thinking far enough in the future I wonder?
    .-= Earth Friendly Goodies´s last blog ..Sarah’s Silks Natural Handmade Halloween Costumes =-.

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