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 about to get 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 will oversee the trial of up to three automated pods within the city centre, and assess their feasibility from both a technological and societal point of view.
Designed and manufactured by Coventry-based firm RDM, the electric-powered two-seater pods are equipped with sensor and navigation technology initially provided by the University of Oxford's Mobile Robotics Group, but with an open platform capability that will allow other Autonomous Control System suppliers to use the pods for trial purposes.
The project will be the first UK trial of automated vehicle technology in public pedestrianized spaces, using 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.