London to test driverless cars on the streets

Three British companies are working in collaboration to develop new iconic automated pods for public trials this summer.

Using entirely British engineering and software capabilities, Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica will develop pods capable of operating fully autonomously and safely on the streets of London, as part of the GATEway driverless car project taking place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

GATEway – Greenwich Automated Transport Environment – is a project funded by industry, Innovate UK and the Government, and aims to test the viability of introducing automated vehicles in to a city.

The £8m project will take place in Greenwich and the results of the project will help policy makers and industry assess the implications of driverless technology, as well as hopefully driving job creation and investment in the emerging technology sector.

The trial vehicles will be an adaptation of the transport pods currently used at London Heathrow, which have been operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, transporting 1.5m passengers and completing 3m km of fully automated operation.

The pods will be adapted so that they don’t need designated tracks to run. The test in Greenwich is one of four that will take place around the UK, with further tests scheduled for Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry.

Although routes have note been planned out yet, the tests are expected to begin in July around the Greenwich peninsula and will involve seven of the adapted pods.

Three new companies recently joined the consortium of companies that will lead the development of the pods, Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica.

Academy director at TRL and technical director for GATEway, Professor Nick Reed commented; “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.

“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 driverless vehicles that will be tested in London will look different to the previous demonstration model.
The driverless vehicles that will be tested in London will look different to the previous demonstration model.

CEO of Westfield Sportscars, Julian Turner outlined what Westfield can bring to the project: “As well as a 100% British supply chain, we can bring a number of benefits to the GATEway project, including knowledge of type approval processes and advanced pure electric race and road car technology that will not only ensure the shuttle trials are a success, but  help put Greenwich and the UK at the forefront of automated mobility”.

Speaking about the success of the pods at Heathrow, Steve Chamber, director of engineering and asset management at Heathrow said; “The GATEway project is a fantastic opportunity to build upon the Heathrow POD concept, our unique zero-emission transport system between Terminal 5 and business car park, which has already removed 70,000 bus journeys a year from Heathrow roads and the equivalent of 100 tonnes of CO2 a year.”