Urban Transport

Pininfarina showcases personalized, on-demand rail system

The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus
The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus
View 18 Images
The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus
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The Personal Rapid Transit concept was designed by Pininfarina and Vectus
The 2011 Coca-Cola Freestyle machine uses an advanced touchscreen system to offer buyers more than 100 beverage selections
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The 2011 Coca-Cola Freestyle machine uses an advanced touchscreen system to offer buyers more than 100 beverage selections
The glass top on the 2011 Calligaris Orbital table reveals its innovative extension mechanism
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The glass top on the 2011 Calligaris Orbital table reveals its innovative extension mechanism
The 2011 Bovet Cambiano Chronograph can be used as a wristwatch, pocket watch, miniature clock or sports counter
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The 2011 Bovet Cambiano Chronograph can be used as a wristwatch, pocket watch, miniature clock or sports counter
The 2011 Ares Line PF3 Sofa is a 100 percent disposable design
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The 2011 Ares Line PF3 Sofa is a 100 percent disposable design
Guerlain Homme Collector Pininfarina is a limited edition men's fragrance in a Pininfarina-designed bottle
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Guerlain Homme Collector Pininfarina is a limited edition men's fragrance in a Pininfarina-designed bottle
The 2010 Pininfarina helmet was designed for aerodynamics and breathability
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The 2010 Pininfarina helmet was designed for aerodynamics and breathability
2010 Bric's by Pininfarina suitcases make up a series of soft luggage
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2010 Bric's by Pininfarina suitcases make up a series of soft luggage
The 2009 Panatta Sport Pininfarina bike is one piece in a range of cardio fitness equipment
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The 2009 Panatta Sport Pininfarina bike is one piece in a range of cardio fitness equipment
The 2008 Riva 1920 Giulia rocking horse is an all-natural wood rocking toy
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The 2008 Riva 1920 Giulia rocking horse is an all-natural wood rocking toy
Pininfarina styled and manufactured 12,000 numbered torches for the 2006 Torino Olympics and 150 for the Paralympics
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Pininfarina styled and manufactured 12,000 numbered torches for the 2006 Torino Olympics and 150 for the Paralympics
Pininfarina designed the Lange Fluid ski boot for the 2006 Torino Games
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Pininfarina designed the Lange Fluid ski boot for the 2006 Torino Games
The Primatist G70' boat debuted in 2005, and a scale model will be part of the London exhibition
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The Primatist G70' boat debuted in 2005, and a scale model will be part of the London exhibition
The 2003 Ares Line Xten chair is a Pininfarina take on the office chair
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The 2003 Ares Line Xten chair is a Pininfarina take on the office chair
A cedar wood sculpture of the 2012 Cambiano concept
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A cedar wood sculpture of the 2012 Cambiano concept
The much-acclaimed 2005 Maserati Birdcage concept celebrated Pininfarina's 75th anniversary
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The much-acclaimed 2005 Maserati Birdcage concept celebrated Pininfarina's 75th anniversary
The black strip in the center of the 2010 Gorenje Pininfarina Steel Collection refrigerator-freezer turns into a transparent fridge window with the push of a button
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The black strip in the center of the 2010 Gorenje Pininfarina Steel Collection refrigerator-freezer turns into a transparent fridge window with the push of a button
The 2012 Lavazza Firma is a styled espresso machine designed for office use
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The 2012 Lavazza Firma is a styled espresso machine designed for office use

Italian design house Pininfarina is traveling across Europe to London to exhibit some of its iconic designs and concepts. Pininfarina is best known for car designs that have found their way to automakers like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, but the exhibition will focus on designs from Pininfarina Extra, the arm of the firm that handles everything from product design and packaging to nautical design and special transport. Most of the designs will be from years past, but Pininfarina will also unveil the new Personal Rapid Transit concept - an urban public transit design based on a series of tracked personal transport pods.

The exhibition, called Pininfarina in London, was conceived by London's Italian Cultural Institute as a means of highlighting Italian design. It has been scheduled so that London residents, tourists and Olympic athletes in the city just prior to the 2012 Olympic Games can enjoy a glimpse at Italian styling and engineering.

The Personal Rapid Transit will make its world debut as part of the exhibition. The concept is described as "small, light and driverless vehicles, efficiently navigating on a network of interconnecting track," which sounds similar to a light railway system. However, unlike any railway that we've ever ridden, the PRT provides on-demand pick-up more similar to a taxi or personal car service. A rider can call up a PRT vehicle at his current location and travel directly to the destination without any stops along the way.

Pininfarina developed the design with Vectus, a Korean company that specializes in urban mobility. We'd expect such a concept to run on pure electric power, but Pininfarina's press release does not specify a power source, simply saying that it's a "low emission transport solution." That could mean either low emissions from the fuel used to power the rail cars directly or low emissions in terms of the production of the electricity used to run the system. Either way, the PRT will get the most out of its energy source thanks to the use of lightweight carbon fiber frames. Those frames support large windows that provide views of the city outside.

The idea of traveling around the city without having to wait for a vehicle or waste time with stops along the way is certainly attractive. Like many concepts, however, the Personal Rapid Transit leaves some major gaps and uncertainties, not the least of which is how it could effectively coordinate a city-full of vehicles traveling haphazardly in all directions. It sounds more like a fanciful sketchbook design than a serious solution crafted for reality.

Pininfarina will unveil a 1:18 scale model of the Personal Rapid Transit system at the exhibition, which will run from June 22 to July 15. In addition to the PRT debut, the exhibition will showcase a host of Pininfarina product designs from various sectors, including the 2006 Torino Olympic Torch, the recent Cambiano concept car and the 2011 touchscreen-operated Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machine. A Ferrari FF and Maserati GranTurismo will make an appearance at the inauguration event on June 21.

The glass top on the 2011 Calligaris Orbital table reveals its innovative extension mechanism
The glass top on the 2011 Calligaris Orbital table reveals its innovative extension mechanism

"We are proud to be recognized as a style icon," Pininfarina chairman Paolo Pininfarina said of the exhibition. "From Pininfarina’s perspective, style must be able to face the challenge of long-term exposure, and must be characterized by innovation and essentiality."

You can view a selection of the showcased products and designs in the accompanying picture gallery.

Source: Pininfarina

18 comments
MacBandit
It's the Incredibles!!!
Riaanh
"It sounds more like a fanciful sketchbook design than a serious solution crafted for reality." - Huh!?? Please See: http://www.gizmag.com/heathrow-ultra-prt-system/19493/
Richardf
An escape ramp is needed for when tracks and carriges fail,The passanger would not want to spend alll day traped in a hotbox. The get out and send your carrige home or back would be needed
habakak
Totally silly. So we will get elevated roadways for every person up to their driveway or doorstep? Why do people keep on re-hashing the same senseless ideas and make it out to be a great new innovation. This is like personalized monorail. Really, we can afford that?
JeffHaring
Walt Disney designed and implemented this system 50+ years ago for Disneyland. This is not something so inventive. But I would agree that the time has come to think about different ways to get people from point A to point B in an efficient manner. With a smaller vehicle comes smaller track and this allows the implementation of this kind of system in more spaces that larger trains can't operate. I hope it happens!
Scott in California
Why do they always want to carry FOUR passengers, or have seating for FOUR passengers??????? The average automobile trip carries 1.5 passengers. Why not just ONE passenger per car??? Then, the track doesn't have to be this massively expensive, $1000 per meter roadway. That's why these things NEVER get built. The elevated trackways cost hundreds of millions of $$$$$ per project!! Think SMALL. Think LIGHTWEIGHT and it will at least be built.
reggys
As noted by a previous comment, the PRT concept has been around for more than 40 years. A true PRT system is not a linear system but is based on a grid with all vehicles routed for system efficiency by a central computer system. It is not "a city-full of vehicles traveling haphazardly in all directions." It would function best in a medium density urban area and require a comprehensive network grid. Initial system cost has been prohibitive.
Scott in California
@habakak: Can we really afford $500,000 for a set of traffic signals at an intersection? Or $50 per foot of sidewalk? No one suggests that these go to everyone's doorstep. How about placing it wherever there is a four-lane boulevard or roadway? If you pay property taxes, examine the bill: Over 50% goes to road construction and maintenance. Everyone wants infrastructure upgrades for faster driving. This is so you can leave for work at 7:15AM instead of 7:00AM. You'll still arrive at 8:00AM, but it means you can stay up and watch Leno or Kimmel or Letterman longer!!! Currently, our automobile-centric society is on a path to a disaster.
jerryd
Can we afford that? The real question in most cities, can we afford not to. Change out the CF for medium tech composites and it's unlikely you could find a cheaper system for transporting people. The cost/mile comparing standard gas cars/$.50/mile and these at $.02/mile. I drive a similar composite EV on the road now at those prices. Nor does it have to be a raised roadway as works fine at ground level though a number of bridges over regular roads, etc would be called for. Since these weigh little the bridges would be cheap. The vehicle itself should only cost $5k or so and last 50 yrs. Most forget the cost of making more roads, parking this would eliminate especially door to door. I'd settle for just standard routes to start. So again if done right, light and flexable, we can't afford to not have something like this in most cities.
vtburton
There are 5 or 6 in operation in the US right now. The first, from the '70's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgantown_Personal_Rapid_Transit
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