Autonomous minibus trialled in Greenwich

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The Oxbotica shuttle bus, dubbed ‘Harry,’ does not include a steering wheel or pedals

The GATEway Project from Oxbotica aims to transport 100 people over a three week evaluation period

Oxbotica has launched the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) which involves a three week period of research into the public acceptance of, and attitudes towards, driverless vehicles.

The trials will see an autonomous vehicle driving in a complex urban environment. The company said it is examining ways to optimise mobility for the urban environment using new modes of transport enabled by automation.

The prototype shuttle will navigate a 2km route around the Greenwich Peninsula, using advanced sensors and autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles while carrying members of the public participating in the research study.

The focus of the study is not the technology but how it functions alongside people in a natural environment. The first trial will explore people’s pre-conceptions of driverless vehicles and barriers to acceptance through detailed interviews with participants before and after they ride.

The prototype shuttle has been dubbed ‘Harry,’ in honour of navigation visionary John Harrison, and does not feature a steering wheel or pedals. It uses an autonomy software system called Selenium, developed by Oxbotica, which enables real-time navigation, planning, and perception in dynamic environments.

Over an eight-hour period of operation, a single GATEway shuttle will collect a four terabytes of data – equivalent to 2,000 hours of film.

Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said: “We are excited to be finally moving into public trials and demonstrations of our Selenium autonomy software in this unique vehicle.

“Our previous demonstrations have leveraged vehicles with traditional steering wheels and foot pedals, and this vehicle represents an enormous step forward on our journey of implementing real world Mobility as a Service capability in an operational fleet which can ultimately run without human intervention.

“Greenwich is an ideal focus for these trials in urban pedestrianised environments and we hope to learn tremendously from how autonomous vehicles interact with pedestrians and cyclists in real-world settings.”

Philippa Oldham, Head of Manufacturing and Transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, commented: “This new shuttle bus is exciting news for London and the UK more generally.

“The trial has been set up to engage with the public, seeking their views on what they would like from this new mode of transport in terms of its look, feel and accessibility. Addressing how comfortable they are travelling in a vehicle that ultimately will not have a driver.

“We hope that this Greenwich project is the start of many more driverless trials around the UK and encourage the public to get involved.”