Transport minister Nitin Gadkari. India’s first driverless pod taxi system will be launched on a 70km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Transport minister Nitin Gadkari. India’s first driverless pod taxi system will be launched on a 70km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Pod taxis: Govt to call for fresh expressions of interest this month

The personal rapid transit project has cleared all major hurdles, and safety standards will be put in place to ensure its implementation in 2018, says transport minister Nitin Gadkari

New Delhi: The government will seek fresh expressions of interest (EoIs) in December for launching India’s first driverless pod taxi system on a 70km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana.

The personal rapid transit project has cleared all major hurdles, and safety standards will be put in place to ensure its implementation in 2018, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said in an interview. “I am determined to showcase the new technology to the people," he said.

The futuristic transit system is expected to provide a fast and convenient mode of transport from New Delhi to Manesar, an industrial town in Gurugram district that is home to Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s car plant. It will also help decongest the roads in Gurugram, where crippling gridlocks are a regular feature.

The EoIs called for in 2016 will now be scrapped because standards and procedures for the implementation of the project were not laid down at that time, Gadkari said, adding that a committee formed to address concerns related to the new technology submitted its report last week.

The panel has recommended the technical standards to be followed by autonomous pod taxi systems in India should be along the lines of the Automated People Mover Standards of the US.

For the legal framework, the Punjab personal rapid transit Act should be amended suitably and adopted as the model Act for the implementation of the project, says the committee’s report, which has been reviewed by Mint. The panel also recommended creation of the post of a personal rapid transit commissioner.

The personal rapid transit system consists of driverless vehicles in the shape of pods, which can hold two to six people each, and run along a predetermined course at 80-130km an hour.

“The NITI Aayog’s proposal to ask the personal rapid transit companies to build a 1km stretch to showcase their technology would be incorporated in the new EoI," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. “The fresh EoI will also help to provide a level-playing field."

For its 2016 request for EoIs, the governme nt had received responses from four firms, out of which three—Ultra Global personal rapid transit, skyTran and Metrino Personal Rapid Transit—received approvals. However, Metrino withdrew from the project in May.

Ultra is the only company with technology that has been tested and is in commercial use. The skyTran technology is at the testing stage, while Metrino has developed a prototype that was tested in 2007 in Poland but is yet to be commercially operated. The official said all the technologies cost less than Rs100 crore per km to build. The pod vehicles of Ultra are made of steel with rubber tyres and run on specially made tracks, while those of skyTran are magnetically levitated and Metrino’s pods are suspended from overhead rails.

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