Italian design house Pininfarina is traveling across Europe to London to exhibit some of its iconic designs and concepts. Pininfarina is best known for car designs that have found their way to automakers like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, but the exhibition will focus on designs from Pininfarina Extra, the arm of the firm that handles everything from product design and packaging to nautical design and special transport. Most of the designs will be from years past, but Pininfarina will also unveil the new Personal Rapid Transit concept - an urban public transit design based on a series of tracked personal transport pods.

The exhibition, called Pininfarina in London, was conceived by London's Italian Cultural Institute as a means of highlighting Italian design. It has been scheduled so that London residents, tourists and Olympic athletes in the city just prior to the 2012 Olympic Games can enjoy a glimpse at Italian styling and engineering.

The Personal Rapid Transit will make its world debut as part of the exhibition. The concept is described as "small, light and driverless vehicles, efficiently navigating on a network of interconnecting track," which sounds similar to a light railway system. However, unlike any railway that we've ever ridden, the PRT provides on-demand pick-up more similar to a taxi or personal car service. A rider can call up a PRT vehicle at his current location and travel directly to the destination without any stops along the way.

Pininfarina developed the design with Vectus, a Korean company that specializes in urban mobility. We'd expect such a concept to run on pure electric power, but Pininfarina's press release does not specify a power source, simply saying that it's a "low emission transport solution." That could mean either low emissions from the fuel used to power the rail cars directly or low emissions in terms of the production of the electricity used to run the system. Either way, the PRT will get the most out of its energy source thanks to the use of lightweight carbon fiber frames. Those frames support large windows that provide views of the city outside.

The idea of traveling around the city without having to wait for a vehicle or waste time with stops along the way is certainly attractive. Like many concepts, however, the Personal Rapid Transit leaves some major gaps and uncertainties, not the least of which is how it could effectively coordinate a city-full of vehicles traveling haphazardly in all directions. It sounds more like a fanciful sketchbook design than a serious solution crafted for reality.

Pininfarina will unveil a 1:18 scale model of the Personal Rapid Transit system at the exhibition, which will run from June 22 to July 15. In addition to the PRT debut, the exhibition will showcase a host of Pininfarina product designs from various sectors, including the 2006 Torino Olympic Torch, the recent Cambiano concept car and the 2011 touchscreen-operated Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machine. A Ferrari FF and Maserati GranTurismo will make an appearance at the inauguration event on June 21.

"We are proud to be recognized as a style icon," Pininfarina chairman Paolo Pininfarina said of the exhibition. "From Pininfarina’s perspective, style must be able to face the challenge of long-term exposure, and must be characterized by innovation and essentiality."

You can view a selection of the showcased products and designs in the accompanying picture gallery.

Source: Pininfarina