India is known for its hellish commutes, with traffic jams regularly reaching miles and lasting hours. And despite technological promises to make riding therailways and subways more convenient, the country’s mass transit system still needs work. So it was exciting news when local media reported last week that India is finally ready to debut its first “taxi pods,” or personal rapid transit (PRT), in the industrial city of Gurgaon.
According to The Times of India, the National Highways Authority has alreadylaid the groundwork for an eight-mile network of driverless taxi pods, and is seeking global bids from private companies to finance and complete the project. It’s expected to be completed within a year at a cost of $128 billion, with 1,100 pod cars ferrying passengers at a speed of nearly 40 miles per hour. Each will be suspended 33 feet above the ground from an overhead network of supports, and will carry roughly five passengers directly to their destinations.
PRT, which combines the on-demand convenience of taxis with the luxury of personal cars, often gets touted as the future of mass transit. It hasn’t quite caught on globally—only a few places, including West Virginia University and Heathrow Airport in London have such systems—and as CityLab previously reported, it may never will.
But Gurgaon hopes the futuristic mode of transit, if it comes to fruition, will be the answer to its notorious traffic—a major problem that stems in large part from the fact that the city is run almost entirely by private companies.
In less than 30 years, Gurgaon went from barren farmland on the outskirts of the Indian capital of New Delhi to a global technology hub with more than 2 million people. With only one governmental agency managing the city in the 1990s and a very streamlined licensing process, Gurgaon became a playground for developers. Skyscrapers, luxury apartments, shopping malls, and hotels began popping up all over the city.