In July 2016, London will be testing its first fully driverless cars on roads. The project is being fueled by an £8 million investment. The first seven (7) will be tested on the streets of Greenwich, south London. Though the routes have yet to be specified, it will most likely circulate in residential areas, in addition to near the North Greenwich subway station an O2 arena.
The car was inspired by the shuttle pods that were used to transport passengers at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5. While the already existing vehicles only run in their dedicated tracks, the new fully driverless cars don’t have to. Led by UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the GATEway project (Greenwhich Automated Transport Environment) only awaits approval from the public.
“The project has been jointly funded by Innovate UK and the industry, and the trial aims to assess the public’s willingness to use autonomous vehicles in built-up areas,” TRL said.
The designing and testing of the car will be dealt with by the Sportcars Westfield car factory, while software engineering is taken care of by Heathrow Enterprises, and maps and safety sensors are provided by Oxford University robotics lab spin-off Oxbotica.
“We’re really pleased to be a part of the Gateway consortium and are looking forward to bringing our innovative, lightweight, technology to a well-known and tried and tested platform,” the head of Westfield Sportscars, Julian Turner, expressing that the company is eager to test the new equipment.
Despite the fact that the cars are to be driverless, an operator will sit in the car in case of an emergency whilst it is being tested on the roads.
“If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world,” academy director of TRL and technical director for Gateway, Professor Nick Reed, said.