Driverless vehicles test public attitudes

The general public’s response to driverless vehicles is being tested in Greenwich, London as tests began on people’s response to them yesterday.

The Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) Project is running the trials that will involve a prototype autonomous shuttle called ‘Harry’ that takes people on a 2km route around the Greenwich Peninsula. It uses “advanced sensors and state-of-the-art autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles”.

According to a notice posted on the GATEway website yesterday, the driverless vehicles test “is not about robotising existing forms of transport, such as the car, but is examining ways to optimise mobility for the urban environment using new modes of transport enabled by automation”.

The notice added: “It aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for ‘last mile’ mobility, seamlessly connecting existing transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using a zero emission, low noise transport system. Research findings from the project will guide the wider roll out of automated vehicle technology in all forms of surface transport, including cars, lorries and buses.”

Professor Nick Reed, Academy Director at Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) commented: “This research is another milestone in the UK’s journey towards driverless vehicles and a vital step towards delivering safer, cleaner and more effective transport in our cities.”

Developed by British companies Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica, the shuttle is modelled on the Heathrow PODs and has no steering wheel or typical driver controls.

Whilst the GATEway driverless vehicle is designed to operate without a human driver, a safety steward will remain on-board at all times, complying with the UK’s code of practice on automated vehicle testing.

The driverless vehicles run is one of a number of trials taking place as part of the GATEway Project to help understand the use, perception and acceptance of automated vehicles in the UK. Other trials will include remote teleoperation demonstrations and “automated urban deliveries”.  
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