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Unveiled: the driverless pods set to travel the streets of Milton Keynes

The pod will be tested later this year in Milton Keynes, where a fleet of 40 is due in operation by the end of 2017.

The first LUTZ Pathfinder pod will be revealed at the event in Greenwich by the Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s innovation centre for Intelligent Mobility, based in Milton Keynes.

The electric-powered vehicles can seat two people and are designed to work on pavements and pedestrianised areas. They are being built by RDM Group, one of the UK’s fastest growing advanced engineering companies, and will be equipped with sensor and navigation technology provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.

The pods are due to begin tests in Milton Keynes later this year, the first time driverless vehicles have been used in an urban setting. They will undergo a series of tests in a safe, controlled, environment will follow.

Milton Keynes Council leader Cllr Peter Marland (pictured with the first of the driverless pods), who is at the launch event today, said: “I am delighted to be representing Milton Keynes today, a city that is fast establishing itself as one of the global leaders in transport innovation and smart mobility.

“The world will be watching as we move to the forefront of technology, bringing great benefits to our residents who will be able to use this cheaper, convenient and more environmentally aware mode of transport to make bespoke journeys.

“The importance of this project cannot be understated as it is a game-changer in the world of transport solutions. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and poised to become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”

Neil Fulton, programme director at the Transport Systems Catapult, stressed that safety would be the “No.1 priority” throughout the trials.

Safety measures aboard each pod include pedestrian protection, low vehicle speed, 19 electronic sensors/cameras, deformable panels, large external radiiand an emergency stop.

TSC chief executive Steve Yanni said: “Technology such as driverless vehicles, intelligent phone apps and social media will transform how we travel in the future, making journeys safer, faster, and more connected.

“Through the LUTZ Pathfinder programme, the Transport Systems Catapult has pioneered the introduction of driverless pods in Milton Keynes. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and poised to become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”

“Safety is a key benefit of driverless technology, which is particularly relevant given the global trends of an increasing and ageing population.”

Today’s event also sees the launch of the government’s regulatory review into the use of driverless vehicles on UK roads.

There are also presentations by the three consortia that have been selected to trial self-driving technology as part of the government’s Introducing Driverless Cars competition.

Milton Keynes Council director of strategy Geoff Snelson said: “We are delighted to be part of this high quality consortium that is leading the way for the UK. As well as driverless vehicles, Milton Keynes is delivering a range of exciting related schemes such as electric buses and mobility mapping.

These projects are not only raising Milton Keynes’ profile as the best place to innovate for transport in the UK, but also the global profile of the UK’s capability to innovate as a whole.” 

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