by John Foley
Let’s you and me go for a ride…
We have a standing weekly appointment at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic
Centre. A few minutes before we are due to meet, I walk across the road to the station
in the foyer of the Economics Building of the University of Melbourne.
On the wall are four computers. I wave my smart phone over a hot spot and
touch the computer screen to select the St.Vincent’s Hospital where you work. As I
step into the first pod car, I sit down, wave my smart phone over another hot spot, the
computer reads where I want to go, the door closes and my car smoothly moves off at
5km/h. Once clear of the foyer, it accelerates to 60km/h and enters the main stream of
Two minutes later it approaches St. Vincent’s Hospital and switches to a side
track that takes it inside the foyer, again at 5km/h.
You have been delayed so I step out to wait for you. There is no crowd here
because most passengers just turn up, step into a waiting pod car and ride away.
Sometimes when there is a rush, they might have to wait a minute or two. When you
are free you take the lift downstairs and walk across the foyer to the station.
There are now three pod cars in the St. Vincent’s Hospital station, and a woman
in a wheelchair is getting into the first one.
A young mother with and a five-year-old boy and a baby in a pram is entering
the second one.
I swipe my smart phone at the wall computer again and touch the logo for the
Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. We walk to the third pod car, take a seat and I
swipe my smart phone over the hot spot. You don’t need a ticket as the fare is the
same as a taxi, per vehicle, not per passenger, so I will pay this trip for both of us.
We silently glide forward at 5km/h until we leave the foyer where the pod car
smoothly accelerates to 60km/h and seamlessly joins the main stream of traffic.
Travelling at a kilometre a minute, we chat quietly as the computer guides our
pod car along the most efficient route, avoiding areas of heavy traffic and any parts of
the guideway under repair, above all the roads, cars, traffic lights, railways and tram
lines. As the grid is extended over time, more motorists will choose to be passengers
on the system so the car traffic will decrease leaving the roads to buses, taxis and
delivery trucks as well as trade vehicles such as plumbers, electricians and so on.
As we near the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Center our pod car diverts from
the main track, enters the building and slows down again to 5km/h. It stops behind
another parked pod car and we walk six paces to the front desk. At 60km/h, the trip
from St. Vincent’s Hospital to Albert Park has taken us four minutes.
For two hours we indulge ourselves with all the facilities and after showering
and enjoying a refreshing soft drink, we walk to the station in the foyer and bid each
You use your smart phone to program the computer to get you to Ringwood.
You enter the first pod car, swipe your smart phone over the hot spot and the pod car
moves off. It is 24 kilometers to Ringwood so the computer guides your pod car to
the high speed track giving you six minutes to glance at your newspaper or listen to
your choice of music, radio or comedy channel before the pod car stops 40 metres
from your home.
I have a meeting so I use my smart phone to go to the city. My pod car follows
a few metres behind yours until it turns left and heads for Collins Street which is
three minutes away.
Our meeting goes well and finishes at 8:30pm. Four of us decide to go for a
meal in Lygon Street. There is a pod car station in the foyer of our building so we all
crowd into one vehicle. The maximum weight that a pod car can carry is 300kg so an
automated voice tells us that we are overloaded by 68kg. Two of us get into the
second pod car and follow our friends for the two minute journey to Carlton.
Well after midnight and with a splendid Italian meal and a fair bit of wine on
board, we are all too drunk to drive a car but that is not a concern. There are no
random breath tests on pod cars and they run 24 hours a day. Walking 30m to the
station, we say goodnight to each other and get into four separate pod cars.
As I silently glide off, I notice two young women getting into the pod car
behind me. No looking for a taxi, no annoying driver, no breathaliser and no leering
pests on the train to hassle them. It is nearly 2am but even at this hour they can enjoy
safe, private transportation from Carlton to their home.
I live at Pascoe Vale, eight kilometers away, so I settle back, switch off the
music and bask in the silence for the two minute journey.
By John Foley