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Greenwich autonomous shuttle begins next phase of testing

The latest trials of the London Borough of Greenwich’s driverless shuttle project was launched yesterday (April 5), with the autonomous vehicle driving in a complex urban environment, as it begins research into public acceptance of, and attitudes toward, self-driving transport systems.

In the latest phase of the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), a prototype shuttle will begin driverless navigation of a 1.2 mile (2km) route around the Greenwich Peninsula, using advanced sensors and Oxbotica’s state-of-the-art autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles, while carrying members of the public participating in the research study.

The GATEway Project is a world-leading research program, led by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and funded by government and industry, which aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for last-mile mobility, seamlessly connecting existing transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using a zero emission, low noise transport system. Research findings from the project will guide the wider roll out of automated vehicle technology in all forms of surface transport, including cars, lorries and buses.

he pilot is not about ‘robotizing’ existing forms of transport, but is examining ways to optimize mobility for the urban environment using new modes of transport enabled by automation. Uniquely, the focus of the study is not the technology, but how it functions alongside people in a natural environment. This first trial will explore people’s pre-conceptions of driverless vehicles and barriers to acceptance through detailed interviews with participants before and after they ride in the shuttle.

Residents and visitors to the area are invited to leave feedback via an interactive map. The project will not only see London and the UK emerge as a world leader in automated technology, but provide valuable sociological insight into what is expected to be the most profound change in mobility since the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The prototype shuttle, named ‘Harry’ (after John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer), uses Oxbotica’s Selenium software system, which enables real-time, robust navigation, planning, and perception in dynamic environments. While the vehicle is designed to operate without a driver, a safety steward will remain on board at all times, complying with the UK’s code of practice on automated vehicle testing. Over eight hours of operation, a single shuttle will collect a massive four terabytes of data, equivalent to 2,000 hours of film.

“This research is another milestone in the UK’s journey toward driverless vehicles and a vital step toward delivering safer, cleaner and more effective transport in our cities,” commented Professor Nick Reed, TRL’s Academy director.

“It is critical that the public are fully involved as these technologies become a reality. 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 maximized. We see automated vehicles as a practical solution to delivering safe, clean, accessible and affordable last-mile mobility. I’m hugely proud of the work that has been undertaken in preparing for these tests and excited to move on to public testing.”

April 6, 2017

Written by Adam Frost

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