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    Let’s you and me go for a ride…

    June 7th, 2019


    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
    other farewell.
    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.

    John Foley

    By John Foley