India's transportation system is in dire need of change. Considering the growing population and the growing traffic situation in the country as a result of it, upping our tech game is the only way out of the transportation mess that the mankind has created for themselves. Pod cars are one of the ways that tech can help untangle this traffic mess.

According to a report in the Mint, Varanasi, Nagpur, and Gurugram are the three Indian cities that have been shortlisted to test pod cars. This is one out of the six proposals that NITI Aayog had proposed to improve India's transportation system. The other five tech-savvy modes of transportation are hyperloop, metrino, stadler buses, hybrid buses and freight rail road.

For the uninitiated, Pod cars are driverless, ball-shaped cars which run along a pre-determined course.

The Pod cars, which will be tested over a 1-km test stretch, will be built by NASA's Skytran and UK's Ultra Global PRT. New Zealand’s Metrino Personal Rapid Transit along with Ultra Global PRT and SkyTran were among the three firms that had bid for transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s pod taxi project in India last year. The companies have to showcase their tech to implement the pod cars projects by forming joint ventures with Indian firms.

However, now prototypes will be built on only two sites as one of the three contenders had backed out. Metrino decided to withdraw from the game last month and called off its joint venture with its Indian partner.

Speaking to The Mint, a senior government official revealed, “The expert panel formed to lay down safety standards for pod taxis in the country has shortlisted the two cities in addition to Gurugram for the companies to build a prototype for a 1km stretch to showcase their technology. Two of these three cities will finally showcase the prototypes from the respective firms."

The official also added that the panel was asked to shortlist three sites. Since the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which is responsible for implementing the project, had already invited tenders for Gurugram, they choose Varanasi and Nagpur as the other two cities.

Some might consider that Varanasi and Nagpur may have been handpicked by the panel as they are represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari respectively in the Lok Sabha. But considering that Varanasi is a very congested city, overhead pod taxis can be one of the mobility solution that would actually work for the city.

NITI Aayog has asked the authorities to first run a 1-km pilot stretch before the project runs in full force as the technologies are largely still "unproven." This is one of the main reasons that the project has taken so long to go on the road.


[Image: Wired]

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