UK innovation to drive autonomous vehicles in the US

Coventry-based RDM Group has announced plans for further international growth with the signing of a collaborative agreement to conduct autonomous vehicle projects in the US.

The Pod Zero is being showcased for the first time - image courtesy of RDM.
The Pod Zero comes in two, four or eight seat variations – image courtesy of RDM Group.

The agreement between RDM Group and design and consulting firm, Arup, follows a successful partnership in the UK, where the two parties – alongside other consortium partners – are developing ‘UK Autodrive’, the largest of the country’s three current trials of autonomous vehicles.

The trials took place in host cities Milton Keynes and Coventry, and included a series of urban demonstrations on selected public roads and footpaths. The trials also hope to investigate several important factors associated with autonomous vehicles, such as public acceptance, cyber-security, and potential business models for making automated driving a widespread reality.

RDM Group’s sales & marketing director, Miles Garner explained: “The US offers us a massive opportunity to take the technology we have developed in the UK and apply it to some of the country’s unique ‘first and last mile’ transport issues.

“When we attended the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Technology Conference last year, we met with leading figures in mobility services and they were clearly interested in the work we were doing on our ‘Pod Zero’ range of autonomous vehicles. We realised then that we needed a US base and we started to explore options, including making the most of our existing relationship with Arup.”

RDM’s expansion to the Houston market will reportedly involve the recruitment of a dedicated programme lead and leasing office space within Arup’s Houston office as a base for developing new relationships. The Arup team is also expected to provide technical expertise on new bids.

RDM Group’s Pod Zero has been hitting the global headlines after it completed its first public trial at last year’s Low Carbon Vehicle show (LCV2016) in the UK.

It is currently built in two variants – four-seater and eight-seater – and offers an operating speed up to 15 mph, multiple battery options up to eight hours or 50 miles, wheelchair accessibility and air conditioning.

All the pods operate autonomously through multiple sensor technologies, including stereo cameras, LiDARS (laser-based light detection and ranging sensors), odometry and ultrasonics.

RDM will bring a demonstration driverless vehicle to the US to showcase the technology and how it works. There are multiple places where it could be used as a first and last mile transport solution, including shopping centres, airports, universities, theme parks and large innovation districts.

The US is the second international expansion for RDM Group, having established a sales and technical office at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, earlier this year.