Self-driving project’s first vehicle presented to public

Sep 23, 2015

By Catapult

The first of three “pod” vehicles was unveiled in Milton Keynes on Tuesday as part of the Transport Systems Catapult’s pioneering project to trial automated vehicles in pedestrianised areas.

The electric-powered LUTZ Pathfinder pod was presented to commuters and other members of the public outside Milton Keynes Central train station, with members of the Transport Systems Catapult project team on hand to answer questions.

Tuesday’s event marked the completion of the first project vehicle by Coventry-based manufacturers RDM Group. Afterwards, the two-seater pod was delivered to Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) to begin the installation of the pod’s autonomous control system (ACS).

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12 comments on “Self-driving project’s first vehicle presented to public

  • I commented on these earlier;

    Once the ACS has been installed, the public trials will get underway in Milton Keynes, with the pods being driven initially in manual mode – allowing them to map and ‘learn’ their environment. They will then begin to operate in autonomous mode, but with a trained operator still remaining in each pod, ready to take back control of the vehicle if necessary. The pods will have a maximum capable speed of 15 mph (24km/h) but will be limited electronically depending upon the environment they are travelling in (for example, moving more slowly in congested areas).

    It sounds like they have picked the right environment for these pods!!!
    My daughter used to work in Milton Keynes, but moved north earlier this year, because she was fed-up with sitting in commuter traffic jams before and after work!

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  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    The advanges to automated automobile transport are manyfold:

    No more being late because of traffic jams and holdups caused by rubbernecking.
    No more costly speeding tickets for commuters. Consequently, enables a more judicious use of police resources.
    The car accident death toll would go down drastically. Translates into a decrease in insurance costs.
    No more crazy reckless drivers and the dangerous road rage incidents that often come with it.
    More efficient driving translates into decreased fuel consumption: less pollution and greenhouse gas emission.
    One can read or work or watch a video or TV while in transit, thus making one’s time more efficient and more pleasant.

    Of course, this is still well off in the future but it’s a win-win proposition on many levels IMO.

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  • Some general thoughts on driverless cars:

    Driverless cars are coming. Not that long thereafter, it will be illegal for humans to drive cars on public roads as too dangerous. This will be a mixed blessing:

    They will drastically reduce accidents. Computers are not distracted by texting, fighting children, drowsiness, alcohol, worry, road rage, shapely behinds, eating, shocking news on the radio, phone calls, heart attacks, epileptic seizures, orgasms…

    Computers have pre-planned rational strategies to deal with every contingency including ice, oil slicks, a mattress falling off the truck ahead, a lion on the roadway…

    Because of their microsecond reaction times, cars will be able to drive much closer together and in narrower lanes. This means the same roadways will pump through more traffic reducing congestion. Without such intelligent cars, there is no may to reduce congestion. There is no more land to build roads.

    Because driverless cars sense with ultrasound, radar, infrared… and because they can talk to other cars and to traffic control, they can drive safely in foggy, snowy and icy conditions.

    You will be able to sleep, read, have sex, watch movies, work, talk on the phone, browse the Internet… as you travel. It will give commuters more free time.

    It will not be up to you to find a parking space. Your car will know where one is and park itself, perhaps quite far away from where it let you off.

    If you want, you can allow others to use your car while you are not using it, perhaps for a fee. You may sign up for a service like ZipCar where you have access to a whole fleet of various sized and special purpose vehicles.

    Car insurance will eventually become very inexpensive, both for liability and collision.

    Children, the elderly, drunks, irresponsible teens, disabled people, people with mental illness or dementia all can drive safely.

    Special vans can be used to deliver packages without requiring a driver. This will reduce the cost of catalog/Internet shopping.

    Cars will do less stop and go driving since they can anticipate what other vehicles are about to do. They will drive to satisfy fuel efficiency not road rage efficiency.

    Since cars are communicating constantly about road conditions, they can avoid congestion, and obstacles always picking the currently optimum route.

    All cars will be able to act as taxis, delivering children to school or music lessons.

    There is a downside too:

    With cars more convenient than ever, the numbers will rise and the number of trips will rise. Even if the cars are electric, this will increase net energy use. This is the killer. We need to be thinking about how to reduce passenger-miles not increase them.

    Taxis will disappear. It will be up to people at the end points to load and unload and deal with disabled people.

    Public mass transit will wane.

    Because it will be safer to drive faster, cars will drive faster, thereby reducing fuel efficiency and encouraging even more optional trips.

    Cars are not very efficient. They use rubber wheels and combustion engines. Ideally we should be using rails, electric power and cars that travel bumper to bumper to reduce wind drag, more like a automated railway than an automated highway system.

    Because commuting will be not quite so onerous, you will find people commuting and polluting three hours each way to work.

    Because of CO₂ emissions, the gas-powered driverless cars will be obsolete before they are invented.

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  • Roedy
    Sep 24, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Public mass transit will wane.

    I’m not so sure about that.

    Driverless electric buses with booking points and charging points at bus stops, with computer route planning and feed-back updates, could greatly reduce congestion and pollution in cities.
    We can already plan connections using the internet when using routes which need changes to a different route, or connections with trains.
    Some services already have monitor screens displaying progress to passengers, and announcing the next stop.
    Some also free have wi-fi for internet use by passengers.

    Some urban metro trains already have driverless operations.

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  • Only really recently understanding what algorithm are and exactly how they are being used can I see where we might be going Roedy. Not only can drivers cars be told where to go but when to leave for maximum efficiency i.e., if you leave ten minutes later you will get there at the same predicted time because of a clearer route. Algorithms can also start to move people around to live in the most efficient place according to their job until an ultimate efficient state is reached. If you need to move then all the housing available for best results would be shown to you and those moving from those homes would have the same. I realise there can never be absolute perfection but it does seem that driverless cars are filling more than the immediate problems we can see. They have a greater lifespan for us in “GoogleWorld’. A system invented for college student placements expanded to the world…..Now where have I heard of something like that before???…Oh Yes! The World Wide Web!!

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  • I wonder how many of the current generation will be able to relax enough in a driverless car to watch a video or work. Before I learnt to drive I could relax in cars but once I became a driver I found being driven by others stressful. Maybe in a generation nobody will be able to drive and everybody will be relaxed in auto cars.

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  • I wonder if we will even need the concept of car parks. Cars without passengers can just “hang about” and keep out of other cards road waiting for their passengers to return.

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  • 12
    old-toy-boy says:

    This sounds like a really dumb gimmick, at least for Milton Keynes. Even if this is a good idea, MK council will make a mess of it. I have lived in KM for about 30 years, from the time when it was planned and developed by the development corporation, it was brilliant. But since that corporation was terminated MK’s infrastructure has been left to rot by the local council. These pod things would be just another sticking plaster over the rotting infrastructure. The local council are more interested in making the lives of motorists a misery purely out of spite, a quick buck or political correctness. For example, they plan to spend £300,000 to create 217 more parking spaces, (£1300 each). bearing in mind MK was always intended to have free parking for all. OK rant over for now,
    Back to these pod things, why should pedestrians have to share the pavements with these things? My motorbike is smaller than these pods, Can I use my motorcycle in pedestrian areas? the same arguments apply. On the other hand I can see the point of automated buses carrying lots of people or even public bike hire, (works in many cities). Finally, if they do come to MK , I will park my bike in front of the pod, just to see what happens.

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