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Pininfarina showcases personalized, on-demand rail system

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June 19, 2012

The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus

The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus

Image Gallery (17 images)

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.

The glass top on the 2011 Calligaris Orbital table reveals its innovative extension mechan...

"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

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
18 Comments

It's the Incredibles!!!

MacBandit
19th June, 2012 @ 09:01 pm PDT

"It sounds more like a fanciful sketchbook design than a serious solution crafted for reality."

- Huh!??

Please See:

http://www.gizmag.com/heathrow-ultra-prt-system/19493/

Riaanh
20th June, 2012 @ 04:31 am PDT

An escape ramp is needed for when tracks and carriges fail,The passanger would not want to spend alll day traped in a hotbox.

The get out and send your carrige home or back would be needed

Richardf
20th June, 2012 @ 05:09 am PDT

Totally silly. So we will get elevated roadways for every person up to their driveway or doorstep? Why do people keep on re-hashing the same senseless ideas and make it out to be a great new innovation. This is like personalized monorail. Really, we can afford that?

habakak
20th June, 2012 @ 09:24 am PDT

Walt Disney designed and implemented this system 50+ years ago for Disneyland. This is not something so inventive. But I would agree that the time has come to think about different ways to get people from point A to point B in an efficient manner. With a smaller vehicle comes smaller track and this allows the implementation of this kind of system in more spaces that larger trains can't operate.

I hope it happens!

JeffHaring
20th June, 2012 @ 09:26 am PDT

Why do they always want to carry FOUR passengers, or have seating for FOUR passengers??????? The average automobile trip carries 1.5 passengers. Why not just ONE passenger per car??? Then, the track doesn't have to be this massively expensive, $1000 per meter roadway.

That's why these things NEVER get built. The elevated trackways cost hundreds of millions of $$$$$ per project!! Think SMALL. Think LIGHTWEIGHT and it will at least be built.

Scott in California
20th June, 2012 @ 10:44 am PDT

As noted by a previous comment, the PRT concept has been around for more than 40 years. A true PRT system is not a linear system but is based on a grid with all vehicles routed for system efficiency by a central computer system. It is not "a city-full of vehicles traveling haphazardly in all directions." It would function best in a medium density urban area and require a comprehensive network grid. Initial system cost has been prohibitive.

reggys
20th June, 2012 @ 10:50 am PDT

@habakak: Can we really afford $500,000 for a set of traffic signals at an intersection? Or $50 per foot of sidewalk? No one suggests that these go to everyone's doorstep. How about placing it wherever there is a four-lane boulevard or roadway? If you pay property taxes, examine the bill: Over 50% goes to road construction and maintenance.

Everyone wants infrastructure upgrades for faster driving. This is so you can leave for work at 7:15AM instead of 7:00AM. You'll still arrive at 8:00AM, but it means you can stay up and watch Leno or Kimmel or Letterman longer!!!

Currently, our automobile-centric society is on a path to a disaster.

Scott in California
20th June, 2012 @ 10:57 am PDT

Can we afford that? The real question in most cities, can we afford not to.

Change out the CF for medium tech composites and it's unlikely you could find a cheaper system for transporting people. The cost/mile comparing standard gas cars/$.50/mile and these at $.02/mile.

I drive a similar composite EV on the road now at those prices.

Nor does it have to be a raised roadway as works fine at ground level though a number of bridges over regular roads, etc would be called for. Since these weigh little the bridges would be cheap.

The vehicle itself should only cost $5k or so and last 50 yrs.

Most forget the cost of making more roads, parking this would eliminate especially door to door. I'd settle for just standard routes to start.

So again if done right, light and flexable, we can't afford to not have something like this in most cities.

jerryd
20th June, 2012 @ 11:20 am PDT

There are 5 or 6 in operation in the US right now. The first, from the '70's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgantown_Personal_Rapid_Transit

vtburton
20th June, 2012 @ 12:11 pm PDT

There's no reason we can't have both worlds...the car to and from your door and, at convenient locations (former commuter parking lots, for example) a transfer station where the drive train - the heavy part of the car - is shed and the vehicle, now referred to as a 'pod', mating with a guideway to get to destination station (which, because of the low cost, could be integrated right inside buildings, malls, you name it). There is nothing 'critical' about a technology that's been around for decades: it's just getting it elevated above the mindset of those who know only one thing, and that's to keep building roads and laying down rail. Time for a paradigm shift. For more, http://www.tritrack.net/ or http://www.mist-er.com/home-page.html

Dave Brough
20th June, 2012 @ 12:42 pm PDT

I find it really strange that neither the author nor many of his readers seem to realize that there are two modern PRT systems currently in operation - Ultra PRT at London's Heathrow and 2getthere in Dubai's Masdar City. Moreover, Pinninfarina can hardly be credited with even being a competitor to either of these companies - their remit was presumably to design the pods (and possibly guideways) for the PRT company Vectus.

Alice McNeill
20th June, 2012 @ 02:05 pm PDT

West Virginia University has a PRT that's been working like a charm for nearly 40 years:

http://transportation.wvu.edu/prt

Chuck Anziulewicz
20th June, 2012 @ 02:36 pm PDT

Needs to be two-three passenger tandem seating (for a narrow profile -- minimum footprint) for best efficiency. Then make it Dual-Mode so Road & Track privately-owned units can use this for inner-city & long distance commuting. The "road mode" gets one to their home ---- no need to run PRT Track there, just in efficient networks.

Want more? Dual Mode Plus allows two narrow personal units to be joined with a universal centre module to produce a FIVE (or Eight) seater car-type road conveyance. These are split, leaving the universal centre section parked at the station where dual-mode units join the PRT Track. Persons seated in centre module climb into public PRTs while tandem seated family members just remain in the two (outer) Dual-Mode units. At destination, another centre module can be hired (if needed).

That's all bases covered, except for International Travel, unless one resides in Europe!?!

vortexau
20th June, 2012 @ 08:02 pm PDT

A robo-cab that wont give doorstep to doorstep service. Besides I like having my car being my space, being able to search it when I loose something, and leaving snacks in the glove box.

re; Scott in California

Having only one carriage design is cheaper than having multiple designs and given that they would all ride the same track the energy savings of having a one person carriage is less that the energy cost of not having all the carriages interchangeable.

Slowburn
20th June, 2012 @ 09:20 pm PDT

Problem with current public transport system is that it adds a lot of burden on everyones time budget. First you have to go to the station, that alone can be 10 minutes, then when you miss the schedule, add another 10 minutes, wait in every station between your destination, add more. Then you have to walk additional 10 minutus. Plus actual transit time. In total, it is 50 minutes instead of 10. Time lost to do something productive or pleasing instead.

Kris Lee
21st June, 2012 @ 03:24 am PDT

While this article is about a vehicle for a PRT system, the discussion tends towards the system itself. Several comments about dual mode and door-to-door service seem unaware that true PRT is an urban moderate density concept. It will not work well in low density surburbs. Over half of us now live in those moderate densities and perform most of our daily life by walking a few minutes to urban destinations, sometimes with the aid of public transportation. We do not need or want a vehicle on which we are dependent for everyday activities. Yes, there will always be a need for some road vehicles to service our lifestyle, but the environmental efficiencies of moderate to high density living can be well served this mode of fixed guideway transit.

reggys
24th June, 2012 @ 01:38 pm PDT

that seems like a smart idea but the only thing about the personal rapid transits would be if you have a big family because then you would have to take multiple transits. However i do think that its an awesome idea.

Cooper Pie
14th September, 2012 @ 10:51 am PDT
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