The first self driving pod of three has been revealed in Milton Keynes.
The LUTZ Pathfinder pod was presented outside the Milton Keynes central station to members of the public with members of the Transport Systems Catapult project, who run the electric pod project, to answer any questions the public had.
The event marked the completion of the first self drive pod by RDM Group, the Coventry based manufacturer of the vehicle. After the event the two seater pod was taken to the Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) at Oxford University to have the autonomous control system fitted.
Once the system is fitted the pod will be tested on a private test track after which the vehicle will return to Milton Keynes to begin the public trials for the technology. These pods will be the first fully automated vehicles to be trialled on pedestrian areas in the UK.
Transport Systems Catapult CEO Steve Yianni said, “This is a very exciting day for everybody involved in the LUTZ Pathfinder project, because it signals the completion of the manufacturing phase and the effective start of the autonomous technology trial.
“When you consider that there wasn’t even a design in place for this vehicle less than 18 months ago, it has been a really quick turnaround to now have our first research vehicle ready to start work, and this has only been possible as a result of our successful collaboration with RDM, MRG and Milton Keynes Council.”
The pods will have a maximum capable speed of 15 mph (24km/h) but will be limited electronically depending upon the environment they are travelling in (for example, moving more slowly in congested areas). The pods will have drivers at the wheel to begin with so that the they can map the route and surroundings. The pods will then be switched to autonomous mode but someone will be inside just in case something goes wrong.
“Safety has been our paramount concern throughout the planning process, which is why we will continue to have a human operator at the wheel for the duration of the trial,” Mr Yianni added.
“But the LUTZ Pathfinder project is an important first step towards a future where self-driving vehicles can be called up on demand, as and when people need them.”
David Keene, RDM Group CEO said: “Today represents an exciting stage for the LUTZ Pathfinder project and is a key milestone for RDM. We continue to develop our autonomous pod platform, which has worldwide applications within many transportation sectors. The project is enabling the autonomous vehicles to be tested and evaluated in their intended environment”
Findings from the LUTZ Pathfinder project will also be used to support the larger-scale UK Autodrive programme which is set to trial a fleet of 40 self-driving pods, as well as “regular” road-based cars, in Milton Keynes and Coventry.