The design for the first driverless cars to be tested on the streets of London has been revealed. The consortium behind the trial has decided to adapt electric passenger shuttles that are currently in service at Heathrow Airport for use in Greenwich. Unlike the Heathrow pods, they will not need dedicated tracks.
The Greenwich trial is one of four in the UK to test driverless technology and public reaction to it. Apart from the Gateway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), the other trials will take place in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes. The £8m project is jointly funded by government agency Innovate UK and industry. Seven of the pods will be tested on the pavements around the Greenwich Peninsula, where the 02 Arena is based, from July. Routes are still be worked out but are likely to include residential areas, the North Greenwich tube station and businesses around the O2.
he design is different from the one shown off at the launch of the scheme, when a shuttle vehicle designed by autonomous vehicle firm Phoenix Wings was demonstrated. “That was perfect for the demonstration and we did consider using it but we had a procurement process and chose the design we have now,” Prof Nick Reed, technical director for the Gateway project, told the BBC. “This vehicle has millions of miles under its belt and now we have to take it outside of the track and modify it for use on pavements,” he added.
The so-called UltraPODs currently in service at Heathrow carry passengers between the car park and Terminal 5. In the five years they have been in use, they have carried 1.5 million passengers and travelled three million kilometres (1.8 million miles). “It will tell us whether people trust and accept these vehicles and how they would work as part of the urban landscape,” he said. The government wants to become a world leader in the area of driverless car technology. (BBC News,2016)