Testing of fully autonomous cars on public roads in Southeast London will commence in July
Britain’s first fully autonomous cars will soon begin testing on the streets of London after plans were confirmed to bring the vehicles to the capital this summer.
A consortium of leading British engineering firms will look to develop vehicles 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.
Using a developed version of the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, where they ferry passengers between gates, the plan is to have the vehicles on the streets of Greenwich in South East London by July, where they will undergo three months of testing.
However the pods, which have already carried 1.5 million passengers and completed three million kilometres of fully automated operation over the past five years, will no longer need to run on tracks.
The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, will look to gauge public reaction to the vehicles on the streets.
Seven of the pods, which can carry up to six passengers but require a steward to be present at all times to press the emergency button in the case of a problem, will be tested on the pavements around the Greenwich Peninsula, next to the O2 Arena is based, first with invited users and then with the general public.
The other two trials set to take place in Greenwich include autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries.
The GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8 million project jointly funded by Innovate UK and industry bodies, and is one of four such trials taking place in the UK, with Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes also taking part.
The partnership, consisting of Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica, will use entirely British engineering and software.
Carmaker Westfield Sportscars will be responsible for manufacturing and testing of the pods, Heathrow Enterprise will design the software, with Oxbotica providing mapping and other sensors to ensure the safety of the vehicles.
A recent KPMG report predicted that connected and autonomous cars will create 320,000 UK jobs and save thousands of lives over the next few years, alongside delivering “huge benefits to society and the economy”.
This includes delivering a £51 billion boost to the UK economy and a massive reduction in serious road traffic accidents, which could fall by more than 25,000 a year by 2030.
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