Autonomous vehicles have entered the country for the first time alongside regular traffic on a route in Cambridge, UK.
Coventry-based engineering firm Aurrigo has created self-driving shuttles for up to 10 people that take passengers from the Madingley Road Park and Ride site to locations around the University of Cambridge’s West Campus.
Passengers recruited into the pilot project can use an Aurrigo app that allows for pick-up from a number of locations along the two-mile route.
“This is another important milestone in the journey to make autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” explains David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo.
“We have successfully run trials in city centers, retirement complexes and major golf tournaments, but this is the first time these vehicles share the route with everyday traffic.
” The shuttles, designed and manufactured at our Advanced Engineering Center in Coventry , will drive the 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge route They will drive most of the route autonomously using our proprietary Auto-Stack driving software and the latest LIDAR and camera technology to identify potential hazards as they move The all-electric shuttle can travel approximately 120 miles on a full charge and uses a lightweight composite frame powered by a 22 kW electric motor.
Once the Covid-19 social distance rules have been relaxed, there is room for wheelchair users, who can access the vehicle via an automatically deployed ramp.
Trials in Cambridge were halted by the pandemic, but now that the mapping was complete, the first official trip took place yesterday.
“Self-driving vehicles provide the UK with a number of opportunities, from providing safer, greener and more reliable transportation services to creating tens of thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs across the country,” said Transport Secretary Rachel Maclean.
“This project is hugely exciting and is an example of how self-driving vehicles can make it easier for people to travel on the UK’s future public transport network.” Claire Ruskin, president of Cambridge Network, said:
“It is very exciting to see these vehicles operate on real roads here as a new first in Cambridge. These shuttles could be used all day and night, every day of the year on request – which is prohibitively expensive with our existing public transport.
“They are flexible and make good use of resources without the need for significant infrastructure.
Since many organizations have 24/7 operations around Cambridge, including our hospitals, emergency services and many of our labs, we anticipated this new technology to see how people with real surgery can get around.
” In August last year, the government launched a consultation on “Automated Lane Keeping Systems” with the aim of bringing vehicles with some degree of self-driving functionality onto UK roads this year.