With the certification of UPS and Google to begin drone parcel deliveries, the forthcoming autonomous evolution of road traffic from Level 3+ to Level 5, new work on tunnels, and many other technological advances in batteries, motors, lightweight materials, AI, and 5G, etc., there will soon be an opportunity to combine all of these, along with a tram-based and overhead rail network, into an integrated pod-based parcel transport system. Starting from delivering parcels by drone, the transport infrastructure can then be incrementally upgraded to use all of these including passenger transport, allowing parcel delivery companies to enter a whole new market relatively easily, or to lease out passenger transport capability.
This technology provides an opportunity for development of an end-to-end autonomous all-electric parcel delivery system using pods, to be subsequently shared with passenger transport such that parcels, light goods, if needed, or passenger(s), can remain in the same pod for the entire journey. The system does not differentiate between parcels and passengers except at the start and finish. Pods when latched to drones or intelligent chassis (the carrier vehicles) can travel anywhere that has communication coverage within a metro area, including cities, suburbs, hills, rural areas, rivers and bays.
The pod’s battery pack, conveniently fitted under the pod’s seat, aiding stability, provides power either to a motorized drone latched to the pod’s roof to create a hipod that travels in a droneway, or to a motorized chassis latched to its underside to create a carpod. Dual sensor and control signals also connect between the pod and carrier vehicle via connectors and wireless for multiple redundancy. Carpods can drive on the road, or drive on hardened parallel tracks, or ‘U’ shaped rails, which may be at ground level, termed trampods, or on overhead rails as railpods, or in tunnels as lopods.
The pods unlatch from or latch to carrier vehicles inside podports (i.e. exchange stations), seamlessly transferring between different forms or sizes of carrier vehicle without affecting parcels or passengers inside the pod. The pods with their carrier vehicles have unlimited range because they can be charged either in
motion when passing a podcharger (see below), or in a podport while waiting to exit. Each pod’s journey from origin to destination is set up initially by transport system control, which routes the journey via preselected podports and podchargers on the agreed-to route. Pods with parcels or light goods and eventually
passengers will all share the same infrastructure.
The next step is to add a ground-based transport that carries the same pod on an intelligent chassis driving on a dedicated surface, becoming a 1-trampod, which is basically an autonomous parcel-carrying small truck or van. But because fully autonomous trucks or vans on legacy roads are still a long way off, tramways will
need to be built to keep these autonomous tram pods away from legacy traffic, and pedestrians or bikes, from crossing their path uncontrolled. This autonomous tram pod has controls that allows it to travel using normal tires on a hardened track or ‘U’ shaped rails, which are relatively inexpensive to build. Local authorities will need to agree to these tramways, that will probably adjoin an existing roadway. Strategically placed tram stops allow parcels to be autonomously removed from passing pods, for possible autonomous pickup for local delivery.
There are advantages for parcel companies to be interested in pod-based transport utilizing podports for parcel or goods transport only. Pod transport augments existing parcel delivery infrastructure. The podports proposed offer the capability to easily exchange carrier vehicles from one pod drones to multi pods, to various forms of road transport utilizing podcars that can be trampods, railpods and carpods, or vice versa. This offers great versatility with the different forms of transport depending on local needs. If needed the parcels or goods can remain in the same pod through multiple podports, from origin to destination. And all these forms of transport can be charged while still in motion, possible without even slowing down, offering unlimited range at fast speed.
For parcel companies interested in branching out into passenger transport, or just leasing out passenger transport usage, the pod solution provides a sensible series of upgrades that continually increase the system’s capabilities with minimal effect on daily operation.
For passenger transport, pod-based transport provides a door-to-door service without interruption, allowing for passenger(s) to relax the whole ride, by watching a movie, the news, messaging, playing a game or even working! It will be autonomous, making it inherently safer, more reliable, and faster than present forms of local transport. For passengers there are significant savings provided by using pods over traditional vehicles: no more monthly vehicle payments; no fuel costs; and no fees for parking, commuter lanes, vehicle insurance, and vehicle maintenance and repairs, just the cost of the trip. Present day personal vehicles such as cars are typically utilized just a small percentage of the day, which makes owning one inherently inefficient and uneconomical. Thus pod-based transport significantly reduces the cost of personal transportation, while providing the flexibility to have available transport when and where needed, eliminating the hassle of waiting for public transportation. Pod transport is more efficient and economical than traditional vehicles in almost every aspect and operates at much lower cost per mile and per year.
The pod concept Is easily expandable and future proof, becoming faster, cheaper, and friendlier as usage and technology improves. It will initially significantly reduce road congestion, and later will augment or may even replace present day local public transportation in some locations