Tuesday 2 February 2016

These Driverless Pods will Hit the Streets of London in July


First Autonomous Vehicles – Driverless Pods

The first autonomous vehicles hitting the streets of London are the driverless pods and the vehicles have already being used on tracks at Heathrow Airport. It will be adjusted for use from July in Greenwich. The association behind the test have mentioned that the changes would be made in order that the pods need not run on tracks.

Created by the GATEway group, seven of the electric pods would be placed on the runway of the Greenwich Peninsula, where the routes would probably include residential streets, the North Greenwich underground station as well as areas in the vicinity of the O2 Arena. They would be experimented for three months by invited users prior to being opened to the general community. Individual pod would be carrying six passengers though one of the passengers would be a steward and the task would be to press the emergency button in case of any problem arising during the trip.

The pod would also be the first driverless vehicles to hit the streets of London as well as a part of a huge national project. Various companies around the world including Ford, Tesla, Google, probably Apple have been developing autonomous vehicles.

Three Companies Working on the Pods

Besides just self-driving cars and pods which are being created, Switzerland is all set to introduce nine seater autonomous busses somewhere this year, where the driverless shuttles have been tested on public roads already, in Netherlands.

Greenwich is one of the four areas in the UK where the driverless vehicles are expected to be experimented while Bristol, Coventry as well as Milton Keynes would also be experimenting later in the year. It is said that the pods have been utilised at Heathrow Terminal 5 for about five years and as per those behind the project, they have carried around 1.5 million passengers and have travelled set tracks of 1.8 million miles. There are three companies that have been working in making the pods functional on the roads instead of tracks.

These include Westfield Sportscar, a West Midlands company which develops classic automobiles. Project organiser Transport Research Laboratory – TRL has stated that it would be acting as an `integrator and manufacturer’ designing and testing the vehicles to make sure that they meet up with road safety standards while Oxbotica, a research based team which was rolled out of Oxford University’s Mobile robotics Group would be working on the software as well as the hardware which deals with mapping, perception and localisation.

Project Funded By Government Agency/Industry

Finally, Heathrow Enterprise the company which tends to operate the UK’s busiest airport, having plenty of first-hand experience with the dome shaped pods will be designing the software.The UltraPODs as they have been named are presently being adjusted for use on the roads but their precise design has not been disclosed though it has been confirmed that they will not be running on dedicated tracks.

The project is said to be equally funded by government agency Innovate UK and industry. The present set of UltraPODs tends to have a top speed of 40kph. Though they are not the most exciting vehicles in appearance, they tend to get the job done at Heathrow and have shown the capabilities of a fully-fledged mode of public transportation.

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