Autonomous bus tests in Cambridge

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RDM Group’s autonomous pods have been seen on the Autodrive project

Driverless pods are being tested along the Cambridge busway in a move which could pave the way for an evening public transport service.

The RDM Group is using self-driving pods along the guided busway in Cambridge to test the feasibility of running 10-seater shuttles along the route. If successful, the buses will run between Trumpington Park & Ride and Cambridge Station after 2000hrs.

The Coventry-based autonomous vehicle specialist is working with Cambridgeshire County Council and Wellcome Genome Campus to deliver a £250,000 feasibility study that will explore the business case for a future £3-5m self-driving shuttle service across two routes that will connect key employment sites in Cambridge with other transport options.

Part-funded by Innovate UK, the company will utilise their existing four and eight-seater Pod Zero, as well as looking at the case for designing and manufacturing larger shuttles of up to 15 seats if demand dictates.

The areas under examination will be an existed guided busway at Trumpington Park serving the Cambridge Biomedical Park, whilst the second will be a driverless shuttle service between the Wellcome Genome Campus and Whittlesford Parkway Railway Station on a new off-road pathway.

“Self-driving vehicles are a flexible, responsive, transport service that operates in conjunction with existing train, bus and Park & Ride services that can make a real impact, improving mobility around Cambridge by reducing congestion and providing first and last mile travel options,” explained Dr Richard Fairchild, Director of Connected and Autonomous Mobility Programmes for RDM Group.

“The feasibility study is the first step in making this project a reality and giving two strategically important sites in Cambridge the opportunity to benefit from a more connected transport network that could benefit up to 15,000 workers and thousands of visitors every day.

“The new Whittlesford pathway would be fully autonomous, whilst the busway is planned to extend the existing service to a 24-hour operation, especially important for the Addenbrooke’s hospital site.”

The feasibility study will deliver its findings in June 2018, the RDM Group said.

Funded by Innovate UK, the £250,000 project is being delivered in partnership with Connecting Cambridgeshire and the Smart Cambridge Programme.

The project is also exploring the feasibility of a driverless service between Whittlesford Parkway station and the Wellcome Genome Campus.