The Coventry, UK-based company that has been heavily involved in the government-backed LUTZ Pathfinder and UK AutoDrive projects, has unveiled its next generation of driverless pods at the Automechanika automotive show in Birmingham.
The RDM Group has invested substantially in creating the new ‘Pod Zero’ range of autonomous pods that, for the first time, will be available in two, four and eight-seat variations, making them ideal for local city transport authorities, airports, shopping centers, universities, theme parks, or other locations looking for a first- or last-mile transport solution. Knowledge gained from the LUTZ project is at the heart of the company’s new approach, combined with the desire to design, develop and integrate its own autonomous control system (ACS), which means that RDM can offer a single-source solution for driverless pods. An additional 12 experts have been recruited specifically to create the ACS, who the company describe as representing some of the finest minds in academia and industry involved in this growing technology.
“Visitors to the show will be able to view the four-seat ‘Pod Zero’,” explained David Keene, CEO of RDM Group. “This is a massive day for our company, and puts us right at the forefront of driverless pod manufacturing. Pod Zero represents the next generation of pod, and features different drivetrain, steering systems, and a new striking interior that is dominated by video screens that can play adverts, information videos or just become neutral to showcase the view from outside. We have taken learning from the LUTZ project and moved it on significantly, so we now have a manufacturing process that could be ramped up to meet more than £15m (US$21.8m) of anticipated new orders. All our pods will have a range of 60 miles (100km) and will able to travel at a top speed of 15mph (24km/h). We have also ensured that they have been designed to accommodate disabled people and have wheelchair access.”
Keene continued, “We quickly realized the importance of being able to deliver a complete solution, from design and manufacture of the pods, to being able to develop the autonomous systems that drive it. With the new team in place, RDM can now manufacture to up to 200 driverless pods per year at our Coventry site, and this capability could grow if we decide to move to a new purpose-built facility in the city. This will be driven by significant interest becoming confirmed orders. We are in advanced negotiations with a number of international parties that are keen to be the first to adopt the Pod Zero range. These include airports, universities and government departments, and could be worth in excess of £15m.”