Driverless Cars coming to Greenwich

Driverless Cars coming to Greenwich

Driverless cars are coming to Greenwich, with the first ones to be tested this summer on Greenwich Peninsula.

The cars will look like the electric passenger shuttles, pods, that are currently used at Heathrow Airport, with the group behind this scheme adapting them for use on the road.

The design is yet to be unveiled, but it is known that the adapted vehicles will run on the road and not on tracks.

Greenwich is one of four places in the UK where driverless pods and public reaction to them are being tested.

Trials will also take place in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes. The £8m project is jointly funded by government agency Innovate UK and industry.

The Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project – or Gateway – will see seven driverless pods tested on the pavements around the Greenwich Peninsula, where the O2 Arena is based, from July.

Emirates Air Line Cable Car

Routes are still being worked out but are likely to include residential areas, the North Greenwich underground station and businesses around the arena.

The so-called UltraPods currently in service at Heathrow carry passengers between the car park and Terminal 5. In the five years they have been in use, they have carried 1.5 million passengers and travelled 1.8 million miles (three million kilometres).

Greenwich is not new to transport innovation, with the Emirates Airline cable car opening in 2012, at an estimated cost of  £60 million.

Westfield Sportscars, a British carmaker, will be responsible for manufacturing and testing of the pods. Heathrow Enterprise will design the software while a third British firm, Oxbotica, will provide mapping and other sensors to ensure the vehicles are safe.

The original design was based on a milk float
The original design was based on a milk float

Before the pods hit the streets, there will be three months of testing to make sure they are safe and can be trusted by the public.  Additionally, a steward will always travel with passengers to press the emergency button in the event of any problems.

Each pod will carry up to six passengers.  The original design, based on a traditional British milk float, was discarded.