AECOM-led Capri consortium trialling driverless pods at disused UK airfield


AECOM is leading the Capri consortium that is trialling driverless pods at Filton Airfield, as part of a pilot scheme that will pave the way for the use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) to move people around airports, hospitals, business parks and shopping and tourist centers.

The closed tests at the disused airfield in north Bristol in the southwest of the UK is the first of four trials under the pilot, which is being delivered by Capri (Connected & Autonomous Pod on-Road Implementation), an AECOM-led 19-partner consortium that was awarded funding last year from Innovate UK and the UK’s Center for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

During the two-week trial, the pods’ safety critical features are being assessed along with participant comfort testing. The trial will inform the pods’ first public appearance later this year when they will transport members of the public around The Mall at South Gloucestershire’s Cribbs Causeway retail park. The project will culminate in an on-road public trial at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a diverse estate that includes retail, recreation, residential and business centers.

Focusing on trips of up to 5 miles (8km) to connect people to places, Capri is developing the next generation of autonomous pods, as well as the systems and technologies that will allow the vehicles to navigate safely and seamlessly in both pedestrian and on-road environments, known as ‘dual-mode’.

The consortium is looking at how the network can harness data to enable location, positioning and mobility-on-demand (MOD) services to help support a wider roll-out of dual-mode autonomous pods. The 1.5 mile-long (2.5km) runway at Filton Airfield provides an excellent opportunity for the consortium to set up and test the autonomous pods in a safe and controlled environment. Capri consortium member YTL Developments owns the airfield and is developing the site.

The Capri consortium was awarded the funding as part of a CCAV and Innovate UK competition to invest £35m (US$45.3m) in industry-led research and development projects that would deliver technical solutions for CAVs that provide real-world benefits to users and where the commercial benefit is clear.

The Capri consortium consists of a team of experts with multidisciplinary expertise, including: AECOM, Aimsun, AXA UK, Conigital, Dynniq, ESP Group, Fusion Processing, Heathrow, London Legacy Development Corporation, Nexor, South Gloucestershire Council, Thingful, T&VS, Westfield Technology Group, YTL Developments, and the universities of Bristol, Warwick, Loughborough and the West of England.

“Connected and autonomous vehicles are predicted to make a huge impact on society, but require significant research and development to support their future commercial use,” noted George Lunt, technical director at AECOM.

“With a wide range of potential markets for on-demand mobility services, our pilot has clear economic benefits that will inform the business cases for these types of schemes. The trial at Filton Airfield is the first important milestone for this pilot and will inform our next trial due to take place in a public environment at a busy shopping center.”

Zoe Sharpe of YTL Developments, said, “We are delighted to support this pathfinding project which could transform the way we use the car. Sustainable modes of transport play an important role in how mixed-use development schemes are planned and implemented.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).