Driverless taxis to take on public passengers in London
06 July 2017
Trials of autonomous vehicles are set to step up in the London borough of Greenwich, with a driverless taxi pod set to take to the streets transporting members of the public between locations.
For four weeks, a fleet of driverless shuttles will take up to five passengers and a ‘safety warden’ along a 1.25 mile route in the city. While previous trials have required travellers to register in advance, the new experiment will simply pick up anyone who requires the service there and then.
The four-stop route will connect a hotel near to the O2 arena with the Millennium housing development, via a river-bus stop and a cable car terminal. The taxi pods have already been running on the routes as they test safety equipment and prepare to take passengers on board. The pods are similar to the shuttles used at London Heathrow airport, however these are confined to a ‘track’ road off-limits to other vehicles, while in Greenwich, vehicles will be interacting with cyclists and pedestrians.
The pods lack conventional controls, however the wardens on board will be able to slow or stop the vehicle should the need arise. Each is also confined to a speed of 10mph as they travel through the borough.
While vehicle manufacturers develop autonomous vehicles for everyday driving, many in partnership with technology companies, public transport is seen as the main arena to which the technology can lend the most advantages, as they can reach places not usually served by buses and trains. The project is part of the wider Gateway project, which is funded by the UK Government. In a recent bill introduced during the Queens speech in parliament, autonomous vehicles were highlighted as a priority technology for investment and regulation to ensure the UK becomes a leader in the technology. As well as Greenwich, there are also trials taking place in the cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry.
Meanwhile, vehicle parts and technology company Continental has said it will take a minority stake in French autonomous driving company EasyMile, and cooperate with it on environmental sensors, braking systems and driving safety technologies. The French company is developing driverless taxis for use on streets in the country. Sales of shuttles are expected to take a considerable share of total car sales in the country by 2030.
Frank Jourdan, Member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and Head of the Chassis & Safety Division, said in a statement: ‘We firmly believe that autonomous shuttles will be playing an important part in urban mobility. That’s why it’s important to incorporate the findings from current deployments into our development work, so that this new kind of individual mobility can be shaped. We are really looking forward to the collaboration with EasyMile.’
Gilbert Gagnaire, CEO of EasyMile, adds: ‘We are delighted to partner with Continental, a recognised leader in automotive technology, and known for its focus on quality. This partnership will accelerate our development of ubiquitous autonomous transportation solutions for passengers and goods. Our EZ10 vehicle is already the most widely deployed driverless shuttle globally and is a demonstration of the robustness and performance of its unique technology. We look forward to integrating Continental’s latest components and technology into our solutions to further improve performance and optimise costs.’
Continental is already testing its technologies on a development platform based on the EZ10 in Frankfurt. The company is following a holistic strategy for developing both existing and new technologies for driverless vehicles. The important areas of activity are the sensor portfolio of advanced driver assistance systems, new brake concepts, passive safety solutions, new human-machine concepts plus electric drive train technologies.
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