On April 18, the central Silicon Valley city of San Jose, CA, made a surprising choice: It granted initial authorization for a plan to develop a network of autonomous cars that will need their own dedicated roads.
The system, known as personal rapid transit, or PRT, will feature sleek four-person electric pods that ferry passengers between San Jose Mineta International Airport and the city's central Diridon Station, which serves as a hub for regional transit and maybe, one day, California's beleaguered high-speed rail project. If everything goes according to plan, cars reminiscent of the angular coupe that Tom Cruise escaped from in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report could be zooming on narrow paths running alongside traffic-clogged roads as soon as 2028.
San Jose's decision is a repudiation of both more conventional mass-transit options, such as buses and subways, and the orthodoxy in artificial intelligence circles that fleets of autonomous cars will soon be suitable for public roads. After the city began soliciting proposals for an airport connector in 2019, officials received 21 responses, including bids from companies developing electric buses, trams and automated minibuses. One came in from Elon Musk's Boring Co. to dig a tunnel between the airport and the train station for the self-driving cars that the Tesla Inc. boss has predicted—year after year—are just around the corner.
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