Driverless vehicles to be tested on London’s streets

The idea of driverless vehicles in London has moved one step closer today (29 January) with the development of pods that will be tested on the streets of Greenwich.

Three British companies are working in collaboration to develop new automated pods for public trials this summer. Using entirely British engineering and software capabilities, Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica will develop pods capable of operating fully autonomously and safely on the streets of London, as part of the GATEway driverless car project taking place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The three companies, who have joined the GATEway project as consortium members, will be working together to develop the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at Heathrow Airport. Operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, these pods have already carried 1.5 million passengers and completed 3m kilometres of fully automated operation. Led by Westfield Sportcars, these pods will now be adapted to navigate the streets of Greenwich without the need for dedicated tracks.

Westfield will act as the vehicle integrator and manufacturer of the pods, responsible for the design and testing of the vehicles and ensuring that, where possible, they are manufactured in accordance with the current type approval requirements.

Heathrow Enterprises will be responsible for vehicle software engineering, while Oxbotica will be deploying its vertically integrated autonomy solution, which includes mapping, localisation, perception and trajectory planning, to enable the safe operation of fully driverless shuttles in Greenwich. It will also implement an innovative cloud-based shuttle management system, enabling the shuttles to operate as part of a synchronised, self-governing ecosystem, complete with smartphone booking applications, monitoring and reporting.

Professor Nick Reed, academy director at TRL and technical director for GATEway, said: “The addition of three prominent and respected British organisations to the GATEway consortium further strengthens the UK’s position as a leader in autonomous technologies. Each company brings a great deal of experience to the project which will prove valuable in helping us to understand how the public and industry will adapt to the use of automated vehicles in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab test environment in Greenwich. If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world.”

Julian Turner, CEO at Westfield Sportscars, added: “We’re really pleased to be a part of the GATEway consortium and are looking forward to bringing our innovative, lightweight, technology to a well-known and tried and tested platform. As well as a 100% British supply chain, we can bring a number of benefits to the GATEway project, including knowledge of type approval processes and advanced pure electric race and road car technology that will not only ensure the shuttle trials are a success, but help put Greenwich and the UK at the forefront of automated mobility.”

Steve Chambers, director of engineering and asset management at Heathrow, said: “The GATEway project is a fantastic opportunity to build upon the Heathrow POD concept, our unique zero-emission transport system between Terminal 5 and business car park, which has already removed 70,000 bus journeys a year from Heathrow roads and the equivalent of 100 tonnes of CO2 a year.”

The GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8 million project jointly funded by Innovate UK and industry. Led by TRL, which has over 50 years’ of experience in vehicle automation, the project will investigate public perception, reaction and engagement with a range of different types of automated vehicles.

The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, will investigate public acceptance of automated shuttle vehicles within the urban mobility landscape.

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