Driverless Cars to Hit the streets of London this July
There has been so much talk of driverless cars over the past few years yet very few sightings. They have gained a myth like status, like the unicorn of the automotive world. But now, all those in London from July onwards are virtually guaranteed to see a driverless vehicle in the wild!
The vehicles that will be hitting the London streets are based on the UltraPod currently working in Heathrow airport. UltraPods carry passengers from the car park to terminal 5, along dedicated tracks. These Pods have already safely carried 1.5 million passengers and travelled 1.8 million miles over the past 5 years of testing at Heathrow.
The next step is for the UltraPod to leave its dedicated pathway and cope with urban conditions. The exact routes are yet to be confirmed, but it is likely that routes will include residential areas, the North Greenwich tube station and businesses around the O2
The pods are capable of carrying up to 6 passengers as well as a steward who will be present for every journey to press the emergency button in the unlikely event of a problem.
There will be a 3 month testing phase. During the first month only invited passengers will get the opportunity to use the pods, after this the general public will be offered the chance.
This testing will provide information on how the Pod copes and responds to complex real life situations and also how the public feel about autonomous vehicles. Whether they trust the technology and jump aboard or steer clear and choose another way to travel.
To make the Pods will involve 3 different teams;
- Westfield Sportscars, a British car maker will be responsible for the manufacture and testing of the pods.
- Heathrow Enterprise will be responsible for the design software.
- Oxbotica will be providing the mapping and sensors needed for the pod to travel safely.
Greenwich is only 1 place that is involved in the £8 million project which is funded by the government agency Innovate UK and ndustry. Trials will also be taking place in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes.
The Government are eager for the UK to be the world leader in driverless technology. A code of practice that allows the testing of autonomous cars is due to be published in the Spring, so we may soon be seeing more autonomous vehicles on our roads. As well as this, a full review of current legislation is due to be completed by the summer of 2017. This will involve rewrites of the Highway Code, MOT guidelines and responsibility in the event of a collision.
Would you take a journey in a Pod?
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29 January 2016
Written by Natalie Faughy