Self-driving shuttle buses begin journeys on Cambridgeshire roads

Autonomous vehicles have begun journeying alongside regular traffic on a route in Cambridge, UK, for the first time in the country.

Coventry-based engineering firm Aurrigo has made self-driving shuttles designed to seat up to 10 people that will take passengers from the Madingley Road Park and Ride site to locations around the University of Cambridge’s West Campus.

Passengers recruited for the trial project will be able to use an Aurrigo app that will allow them to be picked up at a number of locations along the two-mile route.

“This is another major milestone in the journey towards making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” explained David Keene, chief executive officer of Aurrigo.

“We’ve completed successful trials in city centres, in retirement complexes and at major golf tournaments, but this is the first time these vehicles will be sharing the route with everyday traffic.

“The shuttles, which have been designed and manufactured at our Advanced Engineering Centre in Coventry, will operate the 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge route. They will run autonomously for the majority of the route using our in-house developed Auto-Stack driving software and the latest LIDAR and camera technology to identify potential hazards as they move around.”

The all-electric shuttle can travel for around 120 miles on a full charge and uses a lightweight composite frame powered by a 22kW electric motor. Once Covid-19 social distancing rules are relaxed there will be space for wheelchair users, who will be able to access the vehicle via an automatically deployed ramp.

Trials in Cambridge were halted by the pandemic, but with mapping now complete the first official journey took place yesterday.

“Self-driving vehicles present a number of opportunities for the UK, from providing safer, greener and more reliable transport services to creating tens of thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs across the nation,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.

“This project is hugely exciting and is an example of how self-driving vehicles could make it easier for people to travel on the UK’s future public transport network.”

Claire Ruskin, director of Cambridge Network, said: “It is very exciting to see these vehicles working on real roads here as another first in Cambridge. These shuttles could be used on demand all day and night, every day of the year – which is unaffordable with our existing public transport.

“They are flexible and make good use of resources without needing significant infrastructure. As employment around Cambridge is 24/7 for many organisations – including our hospitals, emergency services and many of our labs – we have been anticipating this new technology to see how real operation will help people get around.”

In August last year, the Government launched a consultation on ‘Automated Lane Keeping Systems’ with the aim to bring vehicles with some level of driverless functionality to British roads this year.

Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the team.

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