Abu Dhabi is Proving Ground for Futuristic Podcar People-Mover


Masdar’s PRT pod cars.

The playground of the rich, Abu Dhabi, is not just a place for playing kick-the-golden-can. Instead of simply finding ways to spend oil-money on futuristic gadgets and grandiose monuments, there is a lot of interest providing proving grounds for sustainable solutions and new urban paradigms.

Personal Rapid Transit: Our very own Jesse Fox is covering the Abu Dhabi World Future Energy Summit and reported on an unusual system of mass transit – “podcars”, which serve as a personal units for automatic public transportation.  The concept is that small transport units will be available on demand, instead of having to wait for larger, less frequent trains or buses.

For off-peak commuting, this model is reportedly more efficient than having empty buses roaming around, and for peak travel it will provide the comfort of an individual automobile, instead of being crammed into a crowded subway car.  According to the designer of the system, Systematica, the pods will be able to travel freely on the shortest route between points, and will not be confined to a rail, thus melding the qualities of taxis and trains.

The podcar system is part of the car-free design of Masdar, a city planned to have a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology.  Cars will be parked on the ouskirts of the city, and the residents will rely on walking, cycling and electric public transit – and that’s where the podcars come in, supplemented by electric railways for commuting to the airport or nearby Abu Dhabi city.

Other sustainable features of the city include solar and wind power, and recycling of waste and desalinated water.  High density construction will combine living, work and shopping areas, so that all are available within 200 meters, leading to an efficient use of land.

The designs for Masdar are expensive because they are a prototype, but will serve to implement these paradigms and technologies in what is promoted as the world’s first sustainable city.  The rest of us who are beginning to promote sustainable development can then observe these principles in action and move them forward.

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