One of the UK’s leading forces in self-driving technology has been chosen to develop a new autonomous shuttle service in Cambridge.
Aurrigo, the dedicated autonomous vehicle division of RDM Group, has teamed up with Smart Cambridge – a collaboration of Cambridgeshire Country Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) – to successfully bid for £3.2m of Government funding to develop the innovative transport solution.
The multi-million grant from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) will be used to build and trial six 10-15 seater self-driving shuttles to operate on the Southern section of the existing guided busway, initially for an out-of-hours service, when buses aren’t running.
This will run between Trumpington Park and Ride and Cambridge Station, via the strategically important Cambridge Biomedical Campus site, including Addenbrooke’s and Papworth Hospital and a host of leading life science companies.
“This is a fantastic way to start what will be a very big year for Aurrigo, with other autonomous trials using our pods also set to start in Australia, Canada and the US,” explained Dr Richard Fairchild, Director of Autonomous Mobility Programmes at Aurrigo.
“Working in partnership with Smart Cambridge, we will be creating a cost-effective and efficient service that will benefit shift workers, weekend shoppers and revellers in the City. It also gives us a fantastic platform to showcase the UK as a leader in the design and engineering of autonomous technology.
He continued: “The guided busway is segregated from general traffic and, therefore, offers a unique opportunity to safely trial autonomous vehicles running past major residential and employment sites.
“Based on our Pod Zero concept, the shuttle will be the first time we will have built a vehicle that can seat 10 to 15 people. We are hoping this will change people’s thinking and prove the viability of autonomous vehicles for moving groups of passengers over short distances.”
Aurrigo has already started recruiting for the project, with up to ten jobs being created to manage the project in Cambridge and on the firm’s dedicated production line at its Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Coventry.
The first shuttle will be engineered and ready for prototype testing by April 2019, with the first passengers set to step on board in Summer 2020.
If successful, self-driving vehicles could then be rolled-out elsewhere round Greater Cambridge, for example to link some of the science and business campuses to each other or to rural travel hubs.
Cllr Francis Burkitt, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, added his support: “One of the GCP’s core missions is to develop and bring cutting-edge transport technology to Greater Cambridge, within the scope of the Mayor and Combined Authority’s overall transport strategy and vision, so our region can lead the way in creating a set of 21st Century public transport options for our residents to use, and to help our businesses grow.
“Mid-sized self-driving shuttles running over relatively short distances could be a key part of that, especially as they could whizz back and forwards in the early mornings, late evenings, throughout the night and at weekends, when other forms of public transport are less active.
“The first trial was last year, and it’s very exciting that we can now move forward to further work on developing the shuttles. In time, I hope we can consider rolling them out elsewhere in the City and South Cambridgeshire, where the strategy supports that.”
Aurrigo’s ‘autonomous shuttles’ will be designed and built to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility scooters and bicycles. They will run at 30-40 mph and can operate for up to 100 miles on just one charge.