Driverless pods begin trials in London

Posted: 4 September 2019 | | No comments yet

In a bid to determine their viability for future uses, driverless pods will transport members of the public around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London for a two-week trial period.

driverless pod

Photo credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic park.

The driverless pod trial is part of a research project that is encouraging the use of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) transport services at public transport hubs and around private estates including tourist hotspots, shopping centres, hospitals, business parks and airports.

The AECOM-led Capri consortium is running the trial, which will see two British made pods autonomously operating at the Park. Visitors will be able to book a ride using an application through information marshals located along the pods’ route. When booking their journey, participants will choose their origin and destination stops, with the system giving destination instructions to the self-driving vehicles. Simulating an on-demand service, the trial will help support the wider deployment of driverless shuttles in the future.

With Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park already having tested smart mobility activity in the past, alongside a wide range of other innovation projects, an important element of this trial will be to assess peoples’ behaviours and attitudes towards driverless pods. With little existing research on how people interact with CAVs in public spaces, representatives from Capri consortium members, the University of the West of England and Loughborough University will be observing how people behave when confronted by the pods to ensure efficiency and safety, as well as surveying passengers who take a ride on them. 

Focusing on trips of up to five miles, Capri is developing the next generation of autonomous pods, as well as the systems and technologies that will allow the vehicles to navigate in both pedestrian and road environments. A key aim of the project is to develop a business model to help site owners of large and diverse estates like Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park assess whether driverless shuttles will be viable at their site and how best to invest in this emerging technology.

David Barwell, Chief Executive, UK and Ireland, AECOM, said: “Given the environmental, efficiency and mobility benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles, there are a wide range of potential markets for these types of on-demand services, but significant research is still required to support their future commercial use.

“Capri is bringing together technical, social and operational research to help the future deployment of driverless shuttles and keep the UK at the forefront of CAV development. Our trial at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a really important milestone for the project, enabling us to test the service with the public at a large and busy site for the first time.”

Following this trial, the Capri pods will be at The Mall in South Gloucestershire in early 2020, returning to the Park next year with a final trial that will extend their route and further test the on-demand technology.