Members of the public are being invited to test a fleet of driverless pods as part of a major research project helping to shape a new kind of transport. Over the next four weeks visitors and residents at the Greenwich Peninsula will have the opportunity to engage with the new technology and share their experiences.
The trials mark the final phase of the GATEway Project, which is using a fleet of automated pods to understand public acceptance of, and attitudes towards, driverless vehicles. The research has helped advance the UK’s position in the autonomous vehicles revolution through collaborations with developers Westfield Sportscars, Fusion Processing, Gobotix and Oxbotica. What makes this study unique is its primary focus on people: – throughout the Project qualitative research has been conducted by TRL, the University of Greenwich, Commonplace (an online consultation platform) and the Royal College of Art, exploring how we feel about using and sharing space with self-driving vehicles.
Richard Cuerden, Academy Director, TRL, explains “As we explore the future of mobility solutions, it is essential that we consider the experience and benefits delivered to the consumer. This is why understanding and exploring the public perception of automated services has always been at the heart of the GATEway Project.
This Project is enabling us to discover how potential users of automated vehicles respond to them, in a real-world environment, so that the anticipated benefits to mobility can be maximised. We see driverless vehicles as a practical solution to delivering safe, clean, accessible and affordable mobility and we are proud to be part of creating our future transport system.”
Over the past 5 months, the GATEway pods have generated considerable interest as they have travelled around the Greenwich Peninsula undertaking the first phases of the trial. Over 5,000 people have already registered their interest in taking part in the final phase of the trial and will have priority booking for one of several journeys undertaken each day.
Members of the public not registered will still have an opportunity to take part in this ground-breaking research, during a series of “drop in” sessions.
In this phase of the GATEway Project, four driverless pods will be navigating a 3.4km route around the Greenwich Peninsula, using advanced sensors and autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles whilst carrying members of the public participating in the research study.
Developed by British companies Westfield Sportscars and Heathrow Enterprises, and controlled by an automation system created by Fusion Processing, the pods have no steering wheels or typical driver controls. Instead, Fusion’s software, CAVstar®, combines GPS with radar (for long range) and LIDAR (for close range) to enable the pods to detect and safely negotiate objects in their path. This also allows the pods to operate in adverse weather conditions and even in the dark.
Although the GATEway 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 autonomous vehicle testing.