Britain’s first driverless vehicle to run on the streets was officially unveiled Wednesday at a government launch event. The prototype ‘LUTZ Pathfinder’ pod is an electric-powered two-seat car designed to work on sidewalks and pedestrianized areas at a maximum speed of 24kph.
The pods are being built by RDM Group, one of Britain’s fastest growing advanced engineering companies, and will be equipped with sensor and navigation technology provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group. The pods will be tested on a route in Milton Keynes in summer. This will be the first time driverless vehicles will be used in Britain in an urban community setting. “The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a 900 billion-pound ($1.37 trillion) industry by 2025,” Xinhua news agency quoted Britain’s Government Business Secretary Vince Cable as saying at Wednesday’s launch event.
“The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and poised to become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world,” said Steve Yianni, CEO of project leaders, The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC). The TSC is one of seven elite technology and innovation centres established and overseen by Britain’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. Based in Milton Keynes, TSC is a world class collaboration facility for innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and business leaders. It is a partner in a $30-million consortium set up to create a full city demonstrator that will eventually see public trials with a fleet of around 40 driverless pods using pedestrianised areas.
Neil Fulton, programme director at TSC, stressed safety would be the “number one priority” during the trials, using devices such as electronic sensors and cameras and an emergency stop ability.