An autonomous commuter shuttle is to be seen on the streets of London in a UK first.
As part of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project, Londoners will be invited to climb inside a prototype shuttle and take a 2km driverless ride around the Greenwich Peninsula.
The project is led by the Transport Research Laboratory and funded by government and industry, and aims to examine how such technology can optimise urban and last-mile mobility.
Professor Nick Reed, Academy Director at 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.
“The GATEway Project is enabling us to discover how potential users of automated vehicles respond to them so that the anticipated benefits to mobility can be maximised. We see automated vehicles as a practical solution to delivering safe, clean, accessible and affordable last-mile mobility.”
— GATEway_TRL (@GATEway_TRL) March 31, 2017
The shuttle, nicknamed ‘Harry’ (in honour of navigation visionary John Harrison), will operate during a three-week trial. In each eight hours of operation it will collect four terabytes of data – equivalent to 2,000 hours of film or 1.2 million photographs.
Developed by British companies Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica, the shuttle features no steering wheel or driver controls. In order to comply with the UK’s code of practice on automated vehicle testing a safety steward will remain on-board at all times, with access to an emergency brake.
Harry will operate via Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software, a vehicle-agnostic, sensor-agnostic autonomy solution, which uses onboard sensors, such as cameras and lasers, to locate itself in its map, perceive and track dynamic obstacles around it, and plan a safe obstacle-free trajectory to the goal.
It achieves this independently of GPS, instead using data-rate 3D laser range finders for obstacle detection and tracking.
Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica said: “We want to know how to blend these vehicles and software into the environment and how to make it work seamlessly and how to make it co-exist with other users of that environment.
“There’s still reservations on what autonomy might do to the world, but when people have had exposure to the implementations we’ve show then, we’ve had nothing but amazing feedback.”