Heathrow Airport shuttle pods to be adapted into autonomous vehicles
The driverless shuttle pods that are currently used to transport travellers around London Heathrow Airport are to be transformed for road usage and will be the first driverless vehicles to be tested on London roads.
The shuttle pods have been transporting passengers at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport for the last five years and have been very successful. In that time, they have travelled three million kilometres and carried 1.5 million passengers to and from Terminal 5.
The automatic UltraPods look like small trains and travel along specially designed tracks, but the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) now wants to work in partnership with other UK companies, including Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxford University robotics group, Oxbotica, to transform the shuttle pods into the first driverless vehicles to be used on London roads.
Each of the three firms will be responsible for different parts of the development; Westfield Sportscars will focus on the design and testing; Oxbotica will take care of the sensor and mapping technology; while Heathrow Enterprises is responsible for the software development.
Professor Nick Reed, technical director for GatewayEach and academy director at TRL, commented: “Each brings a great deal of experience to the project which will prove valuable in helping us to understand how the public and industry will adapt to the use of automated vehicles in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab test environment in Greenwich.”
TRL hopes that the “fully driverless” vehicles will be ready for its Gateway project event, which is to be held in Greenwich this summer, as part of the £8m Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project. The summer event will play host to a number of organisations who will be testing their autonomous car innovations.
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