Heathrow to bring driverless cars to London roads

29th Jan 2016

Heathrow will be working in collaboration with Westfield Sportscars, and Oxbotica, to develop new automated pods for public trials this summer.

Using entirely British engineering and software capabilities, the three companies will develop pods capable of operating fully autonomously and safely on the streets of London, as part of the GATEway driverless car project in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The three companies, who have joined the GATEway project as consortium members, will be working together to develop the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at Heathrow Airport.

Operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, these battery operated pods have carried more than 1.5 million passengers, and eliminated the need for 700,000 bus journeys and their associated emissions on local roads to the airport.

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Led by Westfield Sportcars, these pods will now be adapted to navigate the streets of Greenwich without the need for dedicated tracks.

The addition of the new consortium members brings a wealth of expertise to the GATEway project.

Westfield will act as the vehicle integrator and manufacturer of the pods, responsible for the design and testing of the vehicles and ensuring that, where possible, they are manufactured in accordance with the current type approval requirements.

Heathrow Enterprises will be responsible for vehicle software engineering, while Oxbotica will be deploying its vertically integrated autonomy solution, which includes mapping, localisation, perception and trajectory planning, to enable the safe operation of fully driverless shuttles in Greenwich. 

It will also implement an innovative cloud-based shuttle management system, enabling the shuttles to operate as part of a synchronised, self-governing ecosystem, complete with smartphone booking applications, monitoring and reporting.

Steve Chambers, director of engineering at Heathrow said: “The GATEway Project is a fantastic opportunity to seize on the potential of our leading-edge ‘Ultra POD’ technology, which has already removed 70,000 bus journeys a year from Heathrow roads and the equivalent of 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.”

The GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8 million project jointly funded by Innovate UK and industry.
Led by TRL, which has over 50 years’ of experience in vehicle automation, the project will investigate public perception, reaction and engagement with a range of different types of automated vehicles. 

The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, will investigate public acceptance of automated shuttle vehicles within the urban mobility landscape.

Other trials set to take place in the project include autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries.

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