Automated (self-driving) vehicles are seen by many as the future of personal transport, with the eventual promise of fully-automated vehicles expected to bring significant societal benefits. Road safety is perhaps the most important factor, as it has been estimated that human error is at least partly responsible for more than 90% of today’s road fatalities.
It’s also anticipated that automated vehicle systems will allow for more efficient movement of people and goods – potentially leading to a marked reduction in congestion as well as bringing possible benefits to the environment. If vehicles can be made to run entirely without human drivers, automation could also offer a new lease of mobility to those who cannot currently drive, whether on account of age, disability or simply because they do not own a car.
There is still a long way to go until that vision becomes a reality, but the Transport Systems Catapult is helping to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this exciting new field of technology, with our LUTZ Pathfinder self-driving pods project now underway on pedestrianized areas of Milton Keynes.
Carried out on behalf of the UK Automotive Council and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the LUTZ Pathfinder project is overseeing the trial of three automated pods within the city centre, and assessing their feasibility from both a technological and societal point of view.
Designed and manufactured by Coventry-based automotive innovation firm RDM, the electric-powered two-seater pods are equipped with autonomous control systems developed by the University of Oxford’s world-leading Mobile Robotics Group.
The project is the first UK trial of automated vehicle technology in public pedestrianized spaces, and uses designated stretches agreed with our partners at Milton Keynes Council. Findings from the project will also be fed into the larger-scale UK Autodrive programme which is set to deploy a larger fleet of 40 pods along with “regular” road-based cars as part of a ground-breaking two-city trial in Milton Keynes and Coventry.
Look back on February’s launch of the first pod prototype. You can also view an image gallery of the pod launch, or see a 3D animation of how the pods might look as part of a future public transport service. Images from the September unveiling of the first trial pod vehicle are also now available for download.
If you have any questions about the project, why not check out our Frequently Asked Questions. For media enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question for the project team or just want to give us your thoughts on the pods then please fill in the contact form below.
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Project status: Underway
Project partners: UK Automotive Council; Department of Business, Innovation and Skills; RDM Group; University of Oxford Mobile Robotics Group; Milton Keynes Council