London's first driverless cars on city's streets in July
London's first driverless cars will be tested on the city's streets this summer as part of an $NZ18million project.
The vehicles will be adapted from shuttle pods already being used to ferry passengers at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5, but are now being developed to work without their dedicated tracks.
It is expected that seven of the cars, which resemble small automated train carriages, will be tested out on the streets of Greenwich, south London, this July as part of three pilot schemes.
Heathrow Airport's self-driving pods.
Routes have not yet been finalised, but it is thought the cars will run on pavements through residential areas and pass by North Greenwich tube station and the O2 arena.
A consortium of British firms, including Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica, are working together to convert the pods into 'fully driverless shuttles'.
The work is being carried out as part of the $18million Gateway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) led by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).
The project has been jointly funded by Innovate UK and the industry, and the trial aims to assess the public's willingness to use autonomous vehicles in built-up areas, TRL said.
'The addition of three prominent and respected British organisations to the Gateway consortium further strengthens the UK's position as a leader in autonomous technologies,' said Professor Nick Reed, academy director at TRL and technical director for Gateway.
'Each company brings a great deal of experience to the project which will prove valuable in helping us to understand how the public and industry will adapt to the use of automated vehicles in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab test environment in Greenwich.
'If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world.'
The UltraPods have been operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, carrying 1.5 million passengers and completed three million kilometres during that time.
Kit car manufacturer Westfield Sportcars will be responsible for design and testing, with Heathrow Enterprises looking after software engineering and Oxford University robotics lab spin-off Oxbotica will provide mapping and sensors to ensure safety.
Julian Turner, boss of Westfield Sportscars said: 'We're really pleased to be a part of the Gateway consortium and are looking forward to bringing our innovative, lightweight, technology to a well-known and tried and tested platform.'
Other trials taking place in Greenwich as part of the Gateway the project will include autonomous valet parking and deliveries.
The driverless delivery vans will be used to move parcels between either warehouses and shops or stores and homes in south east London.
While there will be no driver in the vehicles, an operator will sit within the van – which could be as big as a classic Mercedes Sprinter – to ensure the operation runs smoothly and to take control in the case of an emergency.