The vehicles will be adapted from shuttle pods already being used to ferry passengers at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, but are now being developed to work without their dedicated tracks. British firms such as Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica will come together so that a full transformation of these pods will happen, and will be test piloted in due time this summer.
Westfield will design and test the vehicles and ensure that, where possible, they are manufactured in accordance with the current type approval requirements.
‘The addition of three prominent and respected British organizations to the Gateway consortium further strengthens the UK’s position as a leader in autonomous technologies, ‘ said Professor Nick Reed, academy director at TRL and technical director for Gateway.
The £8m project funded by Innovate UK and industry is investigating the possibility of automated shuttle vehicles, as well as looking into autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries. These rides will be part of the £8 million Gateway project that is headed by the Transport Research Laboratory. They’re not the sleekest or most exciting vehicles to look at, but presumably they get the job done at Heathrow and have shown potential as a fully-fledged mode of public transportation. Other trials are expected to take place in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes however no dates have been announced.
Results will help both industry and policymakers understand the implications of driverless vehicles and deliver a safe and validated test environment in the United Kingdom, driving job creation and investment in a rapidly emerging technology area.
Seven of the adapted electric passenger shuttles will take to the pavements of the Greenwich Peninsula, near the O2 Arena venue, in July. Unlike the ones at Heathrow Airport, they’ll be free from tracks – although a steward is going to be on board at all times to stop the pods in an emergency.
The pods are going to be tested over a three-month period, with invited users taking part first followed by members of the public.