In a recent survey, KPMG pointed out that the autonomous cars industry is going to create 320.000 U.K. jobs while saving thousands of lives over the next five years.
The report details on the £51 billion boost to the U.K. economy and the reduction in car accidents, which could fall by more than 25.000 a year by 2030. In that light, Britain’s first autonomous cars are going to hit the streets of London in the summer of 2016.
A consortium of British engineering firms has the autonomous vehicle as its priority, as part of the GATEway driverless car project that is taking place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich this year.
The “GATEway” project is going to use an updated version of the existing Ultra PODS in use at Heathrow Terminal 5 for transporting the passengers between the gates. The pods have so far carried 1.5 million passengers and completed three million kilometres of automated operations over the past five years with zero incidents at the airport.
— Dept for Transport (@transportgovuk) March 18, 2016
But, this time, the plan is to have these modified pods roaming the streets of Greenwich, London, by the end of July 2016, in three months of tests. This is not the only GATEway project. The other two projects set to take place in Greenwich include autonomous parking and robotic deliveries.
The Carmaker Westfield Sportscars is responsible for modifying and testing the pods, the Heathrow Enterprise is designing the software, and Oxbotica (a spin-off from Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group) is providing the smart sensors and the mapping software.
The pods have a top speed 25mph, that is about 40kph and can carry up to six passengers. Seven of them are going to be “upgraded” and then, tested on the pavements around the Greenwich Peninsula, next to the O2 Arena.
The Autonomous Cars Trial Will Start This Summer
The trial is expected to start with invited users and later on, give access to the general public too. As an extra safety measure, all pods are going to have a steward on board at all times, ready to press the emergency button in the case of a problem.
Led by TRL, which has over 50 years of experience in vehicle automation, the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an 8 million pounds project, funded by the industry and Innovate UK. The project aims to investigate the public perception and engagement with the autonomous vehicles.
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The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, studies public acceptance of autonomous vehicles in the urban landscape. The other trials set to take place as part of the project include autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries.
This project is one of the four trials held here in the U.K. Apart from London, Milton Keynes, Bristol and Coventry are also taking part. The autonomous car sector is growing at 16 percent a year, and the government estimates its global worth at £900 billion a year by 2025.