UK autonomous vehicle specialist lands $1m grant

Autonomous Vehicle - The Pod Zero is being showcased for the first time - image courtesy of RDM - Autonomous Vehicles
The Pod Zero has two variants – four-seater and eight-seater – with an operating speed up to 24 kmh, multiple battery options up to eight hours or 80 kilometres, wheelchair accessibility, and air conditioning - image courtesy of RDM Group.

UK autonomous vehicle designer and manufacturer, RDM Group has announced that it will use $1m of South Australian Government funding to proceed with local trials of its revolutionary autonomous mobility technology.

RDM Group has been awarded the grant through the South Australian Government $10m Future Mobility Lab Fund, which looks to support projects that demonstrate, develop or contribute to future mobility and autonomous vehicle technologies.

L to R: Hon. Stephen Mulligan MP (Minister for Transport & Infrastructure) and Roger van der Lee (RDM Group).
L to R: Hon. Stephen Mulligan MP (Minister for Transport & Infrastructure) and Roger van der Lee (RDM Group).

According to RDM Group’s Adelaide-based autonomous programme director, Roger van der Lee, the funding would also be used to further establish the company’s Asia-Pacific base at Adelaide’s Tonsley innovation precinct.

He explained: “Our base within the Flinders University campus at Tonsley is our first international facility, and we’re very keen to start building a supply chain for our technology throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

“RDM Group is already exploring trial opportunities with Flinders University and a range of other organisations interested in ‘first and last mile’ transport and logistics solutions. With global interest in autonomous freight and passenger transport systems growing rapidly, we want to make sure we are at the forefront of this cutting-edge new industry.”

RDM Group, which employs 65 people at its headquarters in the West Midlands, opened a technical office in Adelaide at the start of 2017 following a successful showcase of the company’s ‘Pod Zero’ at last year’s 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Melbourne.

As part of its local operations, the company will employ a Flinders University PhD student to boost the collaborative development of new technologies associated with the autonomous vehicles, such as efficient air conditioning and solar nanotechnology, and integrations of the pods into the public transport network.

Van der Lee noted that RDM Groups’ revolutionary ‘Pod Zero’ was gaining international exposure after successful trials at Cenex in the UK.

He added: “Our pods operate autonomously through multiple sensor technologies, including stereo cameras, LiDARS (laser-based light detection and ranging sensors), odometry and ultrasonics. The operation of the Pods can be supervised externally, and there is Pod-to-Pod communication to allow for multiple Pod logistics solutions for warehouses, airports and other similar locations.”

Chairman of RDM Group, which is part of the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), Dave Keene concluded: “Establishing our base in Adelaide is hopefully a first step towards developing a bespoke assembly facility in South Australia that could potentially build hundreds of autonomous Pods every year and create tens of local jobs.

“This is a great example of innovation – developed in the UK – being exported all over the world and will hopefully put us on the international map for driverless vehicle technology.”