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First UK trials of driverless vehicles launched

By Kyle Linsay
Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - 11:00

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The GATEway vehicle

Government ministers will today launch the start of driverless car trials in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project) is one of three projects chosen by the Government to deliver demonstrations of automated vehicles in urban environments. The GATEway project includes the testing of a fully driverless vehicle named the Meridian Shuttle, which will be evaluated in various scenarios over the next two years.

Transport Minister Claire Perry said:
“Driverless cars are the future. I want the UK to be open-minded and embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.”

On-road testing will feature the real-world evaluation of passenger cars with increasing levels of autonomy, as well as the development and evaluation of lightweight, fully-autonomous self-driving pods for pedestrianised spaces. They will include public tests of fully automated passenger shuttle transport systems and autonomous valet parking of adapted cars. They will also investigate the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and explore how the public reacts.

The GATEway project will test a number of important factors involved with using automated vehicles with the aim of putting the UK at the forefront of developing this type of transport technology. Over the next two years the GATEway project will:

  • Demonstrate automated transport systems in a range of environments
  • Explore the legal and technical changes required to introduce automated vehicles
  • Explore the reactions of both pedestrians, drivers and other road users to automated vehicles

The GATEway project is made up of a consortium of eleven members, led by the Transport Research Laboratory along with key partners including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which is the location for the trials. Other key consortium members include RSA, the global insurer, who will be looking at how automated vehicles might impact the motor insurance market, Shell and Telefonica who will be learning how the technology might impact their sectors and the University of Greenwich who will be researching how people might interact with driverless vehicles.

Project lead Dr Nick Reed said: “Through the strengths of the consortium and the project location within Greenwich – at the heart of the UK’s only globally recognised megacity, we can start addressing the technical, societal and legal barriers to automated vehicles and create a world class, technology-agnostic testing environment to help deliver the future of urban mobility.”

Industry comment is resoundingly supportive, with BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney stating: “We are delighted to see that the government is providing the financial and legal support required to get these exciting trials underway.

“The vehicle rental and leasing industry has the youngest fleet on UK roads and prides itself on running the safest, most cost-efficient, low-emission vehicles. This means they will be early adopters of and investors in autonomous vehicle technology.”

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