First public autonomous trial imminent

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The autonomous vehicles are part of the Greenwich Gateway project, and will be operating in areas open to cyclists and pedestrians for the first time

The UK’s first fully public trial of autonomous vehicles will soon be under way, New Scientist reported.

For four weeks, a fleet of driverless shuttles will each ferry up to five passengers and a ‘safety warden’ along a two kilometre (1.2 mile) route in Greenwich. While previous trials there and in the town of Milton Keynes required participants to register in advance, this time the vehicles will pick up anyone requesting a ride.

The four-stop route will connect a hotel close to the O2 Arena concert venue with the Millennium Village housing development. En route, the shuttles will also call at a river-bus stop and the cable car terminal.

Similar shuttles are already in use at London’s Heathrow airport, but are confined to a purpose-built area off limits to other traffic. In Greenwich, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to access the test route.

The vehicles will lack conventional controls, although the wardens will be able to slow them to a crawl or shut down the autonomous system. They will be limited to travelling at just over nine miles per hour.

The trial, funded by the UK government, is part of the wider Gateway project to use Greenwich as a test bed for driverless vehicles.