Thoughts on Podcar City 2019

Earlier this month Podaris attended the 2019 Podcar City conference in San Jose, California, as both a sponsor and an exhibitor. Prior to the event, Podaris founder and CEO, Nathan Koren, set out why he thinks we are at the precipice of a Podcar resurgence. At the conference, we learned of exciting new projects and innovative vendors which seemed to confirm that hypothesis!

@drivingmzstacey at Podcar City 2019

Kicking off the event was a session on the perspective of a city, moderated by transportation legend Rod Diridon Sr. Being in San Jose resulted in a very localised set of panel members, but as Jeral Poskey of Google compellingly made the case: why anywhere other than Silicon Valley?

Serendipitously, this came in the wake of the recent request for information from the City of San Jose for an automated transit system to connect the airport to the Diridon train station. This is a route that has been studied in Podaris by numerous users since our platform’s earliest days. But to truly plan a system in-line with Ramses Madou’s aim of a “city for people, not just cars,” our latest demographic analysis capabilities can rapidly help answer those questions.

Podcars may be the answer, but what is the question?

Well according to the session run by Podaris customer Peter Muller of PRT Consulting, it appears the PRT is the answer to all questions… Peter, in combination with a range of ATN vendors (including Podaris customer Modutram), discussed the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of different systems before collecting the top transportation problems from the audience that needs to be solved.

The problems the audience highlighted ranged from climate change to safety. For each type of system the audience then voted on how well it addressed each problem. The end result was decisively in favour of a PRT system – but perhaps that is expected at a conference named Podcar City?

Ranking of driverless technologies able to meet transportation needs

We joined with Christer Lindström of 4Dialog for an impromptu session on “digital planning tools”. Given the location, we interactively showcased how, in under five minutes, Podaris could be used to plan a PRT system from San Jose Airport to the Diridon Caltrain station.

San Jose Airport to the Diridon Caltrain station PRT system

That kind of rapid collaborative route-planning is what Podaris was built for. Podaris functions as a feature-rich whiteboard for collaboration and communication, where planners and activists can come together to quickly test and understand the impacts of different scenarios.

Closing the event were students from San Jose State University who presented their projects on the Spartan Superway PRT system. Not only did the projects include clever engineering-focused integrations of supercapacitors with lithium batteries, but Professor McDonald detailed a collaboration with the Southern Illinois University which allowed interdisciplinary collaboration between students enabling holistic ideas that improve mobility and land use to improve quality of life. Being keen to support similar projects, Podaris offers a 50% discount to academic institutions and free professional accounts to individual students.

What we saw at the conference – and in discussions outside the conference, with various companies across Silicon Valley – was a lot of encouraging signs that this class of innovative transportation technology was finally coming of age. We hope to play a meaningful supporting role in its emergence. At the same time, we’re not convinced that Podcars are the answer to everything, and we’ll be continuing to improve our support for many other modes as well. Ultimately, we believe that the future of transport is highly multi-modal – with many different modes optimised for many different sites and use-cases – and we look forward to supporting all of it!

What we’re reading

A selection of articles that caught our eye this November. Found something that you think deserves our attention? Send us a link!

What We're Reading

While most are thinking about their 2020 visions, we’re reflecting on how Podaris has helped PRT planning to-date. Over the coming days, we’ll be reaching out to customers past and present to collect stories, but if there is anything you particularly want to share about how Podaris has helped you please reach out to ben@podaris.com