San Jose is taking a giant leap forward to the next generation of public transportation with the Podcar City Conference. The conference opened last night with a public forum at the Tech Museum. Speakers presented pod car systems currently being planned and tested in other cities around the world, and described how a new pod car network could benefit Silicon Valley.

Pod cars are a hybrid form of public and private transportation, also known as personal rapid transit. They are electric vehicles that run on a track, like a train, but each car is for individuals and takes them exactly where they want to go, without stopping to let people on or off along the way. “You can enjoy your journey in your own comfort,” says Robert Lohman of To Get There Pod Cars. “There’s no other people harassing you, or nobody complaining about you playing your music too loud, or you needing to sit next to that gentleman that hasn’t washed that morning.” Besides all that, the service will be available 24 hours a day.

The VTA is already looking into developing pod cars as a convenient way to bring people to Mineta airport from Caltrain, light rail, and future BART stations. A feasibility study costing $2 million should be completed by next year. So far, the outlook is positive. Hans Larsen, Acting Director of the San Jose Department of Transportation says that “companies in Silicon Valley can drive the pod car industry to new heights from where it is now.”

Where is it now? A pod car line has already been completed at London’s Heathrow Airport and is currently being tested. Other lines are currently being planned in Abu Dhabi and South Korea. In the U.S. the closest to a pod car is the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit system in Morgantown, West Virginia, which links the three local campuses of the University of West Virginia with the downtown area which has been in operation since 1975.
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