LONDON'S FIRST DRIVERLESS CARS ON THE ROAD IN GREENWICH
The first driverless cars to be tested on the streets of London will resemble the electric passenger shuttles currently in use at Heathrow Airport. The group behind the project is currently adapting the pods for use on the roads. It has yet to unveil the exact design but confirmed that the adapted vehicles will not run on dedicated 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. 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). 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 pods will have three months of testing, first with invited users and then with the general public. Each pod can carry six passengers but will require a steward to be present at all times to press the emergency button in the case of a problem.