Supervisor-free driverless pods are being tested on the public in the UK city of Bristol.
The UK’s government aims to have fully self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads by 2021.
“In the future, we’ll probably see less people owning cars and more people leasing them out and renting them. So, you probably see people tapping on their mobile, similar to some of the ride-sharing facilities at the moment, and then the pods being able to come up and take them to their destination. And in particular, we’re sort of seeing what we call last mile, these might be journeys of up to three miles, where some of those connections are very hard to make at the moment”, Technical Director at AECOM, George Lunt said.
Yeah, it's pretty cool. It feels like a normal car. It's a bit weird that there's no driver, but it's quite nice.
The pods use sensors, radar and vision processing to navigate areas crowded with pedestrians, pushchairs and bikes. The public is being invited to travel alone on-board the driver-less vehicles. Researchers are keen to study their reactions to autonomous transport.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It feels like a normal car. It’s a bit weird that there’s no driver, but it’s quite nice. It’s quite social as well, you’re all facing each other. It’s quite good because I don’t drive, so it’s quite good for me”, a passenger said.
Another said “I think it’d be really handy. At the moment, I can drive, but only using hand controls. But I can see that in the near future that probably won’t be the case. And to have something like this would be really brilliant.”
“There’s no humans (laughs) to put your foot down on the pedal or anything like that. That’s probably the only thing that I would think was a little bit scary. But I can imagine it working really well somewhere like an airport or anything like that”, a passenger said.
This is claimed to be the first-ever public trial in the UK without a dedicated supervisor inside, who can step in should things go wrong.
It’s hoped the pods could be used in cities across the UK, being hailed by the public using a smartphone app just like ride-hailing services like Uber.