UK Autodrive project’s autonomous pods provide first-last mile transport in Milton Keynes

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This month will see the conclusion of the UK Autodrive project’s automated pod trials in Milton Keynes, which has successfully demonstrated the use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) for first-mile/last-mile transport in an urban setting.

Jointly funded by government and industry and delivered by the Innovate UK agency, UK Autodrive is the largest of three consortia that were launched to support the introduction of self-driving vehicles into the UK.

The three-year project brought together leading technology and automotive businesses, forward-thinking local authorities and academic institutions to deliver a major trial of CAV technologies in Milton Keynes and Coventry. As part of the UK Autodrive project, Milton Keynes council has been working with Aurrigo, the autonomous vehicle division of the RDM Group, to test out a new first/last-mile transport solution for local people, shoppers and visitors to Milton Keynes.

Up to 15 electric-powered pods, capable of travelling up to 15mph (24km/h) and lasting up to 60 miles (96km) on one charge, have been operating in the city center from the Central Railway Station. The trials have been so successful that there are plans for the pods to continue to operate in the city, with a service being offered to residents in the near future.

“The trial in Milton Keynes has proved we have advanced autonomous technology that works in a live public environment and pods that can provide that crucial first and last mile transport solution for towns and cities throughout the world,” noted Miles Garner, sales and marketing director at Aurrigo.

“Being involved as one of the lead partners in UK Autodrive has transformed our business and given us the opportunity to test our technology alongside some of the world’s largest manufacturers in Jaguar Land Rover and Tata. We need to take advantage of being first to market and we are already in discussions with a number of potential customers to take our pods for use on university campuses, theme parks, shopping malls and retirement villages. The potential is huge, and we are projecting increases in turnover that could reach £100m over the next three years.”

Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation at Milton Keynes council, commented, “We are thrilled to have seen the successful demonstration of the technology here in Milton Keynes. What we have seen is the potential for this technology to develop into a full blown public transport service. This is important to us because, we want to have the ability to provide first- and last-mile mobility options that can help people get about their business in an efficient and safe way and giving improved travel options for those who cannot drive or might find it difficult to use buses or cycles or have difficulty walking.”

The partners in the UK Autodrive consortium are: Arup, Milton Keynes council, Coventry City council, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Company, Tata Motors European Technical Center, RDM Group, Horiba-MIRA, AXA, Gowling WLG, Thales, Transport Systems Catapult, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the Open University.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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