LUTZ boss welcomes positive ‘appetite’ for self-driving vehicles

Posted on 22 Jan 2016 by Jonny Williamson

The Coventry-based manufacturer behind the design and build of the LUTZ Pathfinder pod, RDM Group, has welcomed a new online poll that highlights a positive reaction to self-driving vehicles in Milton Keynes.

David Keene – chairman of automotive experts, RDM Group – believes the survey highlights a growing interest in driverless pods and the benefits they can provide to people living, working and visiting UK cities.

Principal technologist at Transport Systems Catapult Eric Chan unveils the first Lutz Pathfinder pod vehicle developed by Coventry’s RDM Group.
Principal technologist at Transport Systems Catapult Eric Chan unveils the first Lutz Pathfinder pod vehicle developed by Coventry’s RDM Group.

Commissioned by the Transport Systems Catapult (the organisation overseeing the LUTZ Pathfinder trial) and carried out by YouGov, the independent poll found that 61% of adults living in the Buckinghamshire town would be interested in using the electric-powered two-seater ‘pods’ for making ‘short hop’ journeys.

That compared to interest levels of 38% among respondents in the UK as a whole. When it came to people in the national survey, who had already heard something about the project before taking part, the figure rose to 48% – suggesting that familiarity with the trials is helping to improve public attitudes towards the technology.

Keene explained: “This is a major boost for the project at a time when we are entering the next stage of the trials.

“The work the Transport Systems Catapult has done in raising the profile of LUTZ appears to be paying dividends and, while there will always be concerns about something as game-changing as this, there appears a willingness to give it a try.”

David Keene, chairman, RDM Group
David Keene, chairman, RDM Group.

He continued: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to be a major growth opportunity for the UK in years to come, and the work we are doing here could give us the platform to be at the forefront of other global projects.

“It has certainly put RDM on the international map and highlights how an advanced engineering business – supported by the right partners – has the potential to lead on future transport solutions.”

The LUTZ Pathfinder pods have been designed and manufactured by RDM Group and are equipped with a fully autonomous control system developed by the University of Oxford’s world-leading Mobile Robotics Group.

Up to three pods are being used during the trial, with each one being driven initially in manual mode as it ‘learns’ its environment.

Other findings from The YouGov poll include:

  • Awareness of the project is already high, with nearly one in four adults (23%) in the UK having heard about the trial. In Milton Keynes more than three quarters (78%) of those surveyed had done so
  • For both the national and local surveys, safety topped the list of concerns about the technology, followed by worries about malfunctions and breakdowns
  • Low cost of use and proven safety were the primary factors that would make the respondents more likely to use a self-driving vehicle

Once they have begun to operate in self-driving mode, a trained test driver will remain for the duration of the trial, ready to take control of the vehicle if required.

The trial will culminate in a public demonstration of the technology, due to take place in Milton Keynes later this year.

Findings from the trial will also be fed into the larger-scale three-year ‘UK Autodrive’ programme, which will involve a fleet of 40 pods as well as regular road-based cars operating in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

Transport Systems Catapult CEO, Steve Yianni commented: “The LUTZ Pathfinder project is trialling the technical capabilities of self-driving vehicles, but it also has an equally important role in increasing public awareness about this technology, and its potential benefits.

“It’s wonderful to see how much the people of Milton Keynes are getting behind the project, and we’ll continue to engage with the public and watch how they interact with the pods as the project progresses.”