The UK city of Cambridge is running an autonomous passenger shuttle trial alongside other traffic.
The custom-made passenger shuttles from engineering firm Aurrigo will operate a 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge site and will run autonomously for the majority of the route.
The trial is part of a project led by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), Smart Cambridge and Aurrigo to look at how autonomous technology can be used on the public transport network.
Backed by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), the trial could pave the way for a range of autonomous services to provide on-demand public transport for workers at large employment sites – such as the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and West Cambridge – and potentially for people enjoying an evening in the city in the future.
The GCP is delivering the area’s £500m city deal with government to support sustainable growth for the country by investing in public transport infrastructure, skills, and housing.
“This trial is a great example of the type of innovative, clean transport solution that I look forward to working closely with the GCP on,” said Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of Greater Cambridgeshire.
“By working collaboratively on the future of sustainable transport solutions for Cambridge we not only help people get to and from work but also enable easier access to the cultural, leisure and family activities that we have missed in recent times.
“I look forward to seeing how this trial develops and what learnings we can take forward for the delivery of a modern, timely and relevant transport solution for the rest of Greater Cambridgeshire.”
The GCP and Smart Cambridge secured Government funding from CCAV, part of Innovate UK, in 2018 to launch the project.
It followed feasibility studies commissioned and funded by the GCP, working with the University of Cambridge, on the potential use of autonomous vehicles as part of the GCP’s mission to find ways to transform how people get around the city.
As part of the project consortium, Coventry-based engineering firm Aurrigo, the autonomous vehicle division of RDM Group, began development of autonomous shuttles for use in Cambridge following successful trials of its four-seater pod.
The Aurrigo team began mapping the test route from the Madingley Road Park & Ride site to and around the West Cambridge campus with one vehicle late last year, but had to pause work during the national Covid-19 lockdown.
Work resumed on the project following the lifting of restrictions, and a second shuttle arrived on site on 7 May to begin mapping the route for the trial journeys. Once completed, the Aurrigo Shuttles began running in a combination of autonomous and manual modes along the route to test the systems.
Further passenger trials are planned during June with select passengers to be invited on board the 10-seater shuttle by the project team.
Safety operators are onboard the vehicle during the project trials and are able to regain manual control of the vehicle immediately at any time if required. The vehicles will run at a maximum of 20mph, are fully electric and have a range of 100 miles.
The trials will support research into potential driverless shuttle services to link the city’s other research campuses with the rail stations and Park & Ride sites, and further explore how smart technology could be used to cut congestion and improve public transport.
“This is another major milestone in the journey towards making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” said David Keene, chief executive officer of Aurrigo. “We’ve completed successful trials in city centres but this is the first time these custom-made vehicles will be sharing the route with other traffic whilst carrying passengers.”