UK autonomous vehicles leader heads ‘down under’

Posted on 24 Jan 2017 by Jonny Williamson

One of the UK’s leading forces in autonomous vehicles, RDM Group, has invested in its first international facility in a bid to tap into a $90bn global opportunity.

According to RDM Group, the opening of a technical office at Flinders University campus in Adelaide will be responsible for purchasing, sales and technology support as part of the firm’s autonomous vehicles expansion into Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

It’s an ambitious move for the firm, but one it has taken after four months of discussions with the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) and showcasing its ‘Pod Zero’ autonomous vehicle at ITS Melbourne and a number of other major exhibitions and events.

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

CEO of RDM Group, David Keene explained: “There is massive demand for creating autonomous mobility solutions in Australia and we want to make sure our technology is at the forefront of any new developments.

“Our ‘Pod Zero’ vehicle has been generating a lot of interest ‘down under’ and we have been in discussions with a number of end-users that are willing to take part in trials to prove that it is an excellent ‘first and last mile’ transport solution.”

He continued: “With this in mind, we feel the opportunity deserves a local presence and we are delighted to have taken a technical office at Flinders University, opposite the world class Tonsley Innovation District.

“This will give us the base to develop an Australian supply chain and to explore new opportunities, with the longer-term plan to create a bespoke assembly facility in Adelaide that will supply vehicles direct to customers across the Asia-Pacific region.”

RDM’s ‘Pod Zero’ has been hitting the global headlines after completing its first totally autonomous trial at Cenex in the UK.

With a top speed of 15mph off highway, an operational range of 60 miles and four & eight-seater variants, the vehicle is attracting the attention of local authorities, universities, airports, theme parks and shopping centres keen to explore possible ‘first and last mile’ transport solutions.

The company, which employs more than 60 people at its headquarters in Coventry, also announced the appointed of Roger van der Lee as autonomous programme director, responsible for overseeing the set-up, developing a supply chain and exploring possible contracts with the government, Education and the private sector.

His most recent role was in the development of Green Distillation Technologies, a Melbourne-based start-up that pioneered a way of recycling end-of-life car and truck tyres into saleable commodities.

He explained: “The Australian automotive sector has seen a difficult period in recent years, with many major OEMs deciding to close operations and move elsewhere. This has left a void and I believe that we are in an ideal position to create a new modern industry around the development of autonomous vehicles.

“This is why the RDM Group opportunity is so exciting. The company is already well ahead of many of its rivals in how to design and build driverless vehicles and, with my network of contacts and experience in developing supply chains, we have a fantastic opportunity to become a leading supplier of transport solutions in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

“Our Adelaide office is the first step in a plan that will hopefully see us build a bespoke assembly facility where we can build hundreds of autonomous pods every year.”

As part of its international expansion, RDM Group has lodged an application to The South Australian Government’s Au$10m Future Mobility Lab Fund, which is designed to boost local testing and R&D on connected technologies and autonomous vehicles.