Following the UK Government’s autonomous vehicle trials launch event, which featured demonstrations of several of the vehicles to be tested, details have been revealed on the driverless pod that will become the country’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) to be used in public areas. The LUTZ (Low-carbon Urban Transport Zone) Pathfinder pod is an electric-powered, two-seat vehicle that will travel at a maximum speed of 15mph (24km/h) and boasts a range of 40 miles (64km). The build of the first prototype has taken just 10 months to complete and has involved eight specialist engineers at the RDM Group, a Coventry-based advanced manufacturing specialist. It is anticipated that three pods will be manufactured ready for trials on the pavements of Milton Keynes in June. The Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s innovation center for intelligent transport systems, is the project lead for the LUTZ Pathfinder program, and is also a partner in the £20m (US$30.5m) twin-city UK Autodrive project. The aim is to build on the success of the initial pilot program in Milton Keynes, with the design, performance and knowledge taken from the early tests used to scale-up the project to create a full city demonstrator that will eventually see public trials involving 40 driverless pods in Coventry and Milton Keynes.
Public safety is the prime factor in the pod’s design, and this is reflected in the implementation of 19 different types of sensors, cameras, lasers, radars and LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) systems. The sensor and navigation technology has been designed and provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group. The styling is dominated by a balanced roofline, with the protected wheels pushed back to the extremities of the chassis and doors that run virtually the entire side of the vehicle. “We are thrilled to be part of such a groundbreaking project that has the potential to prove that driverless vehicles can be used safely and effectively on our pavements and roads,” explained David Keene, chief executive officer at RDM Group. “It has been challenging and involved pretty much every member of staff at one time or another. We’ve invested heavily in ensuring we have the necessary skills in design, electronics and niche vehicle development to make LUTZ a success. We believe we’ve created a robust and visually exciting prototype that will showcase the best of British design and engineering.”
Steve Yianni, chief executive of the Transport Systems Catapult, noted, “Technology such as driverless vehicles, intelligent phone apps, and social media, will transform how we travel in the future, making journeys faster, easier, and more connected. Through the LUTZ Pathfinder program, we have pioneered the introduction of driverless pods in Milton Keynes, and the first ever tests in the UK will take place in 2015 in a controlled public environment. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and could become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”