RDM Group opens the door to UK’s first driverless pod

Coventry-based advanced manufacturing specialist, RDM Group will be under the world’s spotlight today when it unveils a major UK transport breakthrough.

RDM Official Pods (P2)
Electric powered, the vehicle can seat two people (Image courtesy of Simon Stuart Miller).

RDM Group will showcase a prototype of the driverless pod that will be the first autonomous vehicle used in public areas when it takes to the pavements of Milton Keynes later this year.

The ‘LUTZ’ Pathfinder pod was revealed at a cross-Government launch event by Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s innovation centre for intelligent transport systems.

Electric powered, the vehicle can seat two people, will travel at a maximum speed of 15mph and boasts a range of 40 miles.

With safety the number one factor, 19 different types of sensors, cameras, lasers, radars and LIDARs – provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group – are used by the vehicle to navigate.

The build of the first prototype has taken just 10 months to complete and has involved eight specialist engineers at RDM.

With the expectation that three pods will be manufactured ready for trials in June, chief executive officer at RDM Group, David Keene explained: “We are thrilled to be part of such a ground-breaking project that has the potential to prove that driverless vehicles can be used safely and effectively on our pavements and roads.”

“It has been challenging and involved pretty much every member of staff at one time or another.”

He continued: “However, pushing the boundaries of innovation is what we do best and hopefully LUTZ puts us in an ideal position to win other autonomous vehicle work that could lead to new jobs and even greater expansion.”

The driverless pods are being built at RDM’s £400,000 advanced engineering centre in the heart of Coventry, where it employs 43 people.

The futuristic styling is dominated by a balanced roofline, wheels pushed back to the extremities of the chassis and doors that run virtually the entire side of the vehicle.

RDM Official Pods Open
LUTZ Pathfinder pod (Image courtesy of Simon Stuart Miller).

It is split into two colours, the main body being satin black and various body panels picked out in gloss white, inspired by the iconic space shuttle.

Keene, who started the business more than 20 years ago, continued: “We’ve invested heavily in ensuring we have the necessary skills in design, electronics and niche vehicle development to make LUTZ a success.

“This contract will help us pass £10m in annual sales this year and has the potential to create a further five high value engineering jobs.

“More importantly, we believe we’ve created a robust and visually exciting prototype that will showcase the best of British design and engineering.”

The Transport Systems Catapult is the project lead for the LUTZ Pathfinder programme and also a partner in the £20m twin-city UK Autodrive project announced by the Chancellor in the 2014 Autumn Statement.

UK Autodrive will build on the success of the initial programme, with the design, performance and learning from early tests used to scale this up to create a full city demonstrator that will eventually see public trials – involving 40 driverless pods – in Coventry and Milton Keynes.

Chief executive of the Transport Systems Catapult, Steve Yianni concluded: “Technology such as driverless vehicles, intelligent phone apps, and social media, will transform how we travel in the future – making journeys faster, easier, and more connected.

“The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and could become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”