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Driverless pods coming to UK in 2015, Milton Keynes gets first dibs

Driverless cars may be a good few years away, but the first trials of the technology found within them is scheduled to begin in the UK as early as 2015. Milton Keynes will be home to a five-year project that will put smartphone-controlled driverless compact pods to the test.

The GM EN-V personal transportation vehicle one of several driverless pods being considered for city deployment.
The GM EN-V personal transportation vehicle one of several driverless pods being considered for city deployment.

The pods won’t run on UK roads. Instead each of the 100 on test will initially be given a dedicated lane in which to cruise along the pavements of Milton Keynes, with a view to removing the lanes as the test progresses.

Each pod can seat two passengers and a bit of luggage. Two electric motors (one in each wheel) allow the strange-looking contraption to reach a top speed of 12mph.

A system of high-definition cameras, sensors and GPS prevents the pods crashing into pedestrians, road works and parked cars.The pods communicate with each other, so they won’t bang into each other or congregate too densely in one particular area. A joystick is provided in case something goes wrong.

Passengers will be able to ‘hail’ a pod in the street using a smartphone app, or pick one up from a designated collection point. Journeys will cost £2, with the route running between Milton Keynes station, the shopping centre and offices located one mile away.

The £65 million project is hoping to rake in £1million from fares in the first year. If successful, it could be implemented in towns and cities around the UK.

If you were hoping to use the pods as a way of cruising about after a few alcoholic beverages, think again. Laws could make you and your passenger responsible for the vehicle. No drink-driving, then.

“We envisage in the future that that large city centre spaces and industrial spaces will become pedestrianised zones,” explained John Miles, a Cambridge University professor and member of the Automotive Council UK.

“The idea is that when you are in the pod you can do other things, whether watching a video or doing office work. In the City of London, for example, you could pedestrianise the whole square mile,” he added.

A number of car manufacturers are said to be interested in becoming involved in the trial, including Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors and Ford.

Back in July of this year Oxford University was given the green light to test driverless cars on quiet UK roads.

Source and image: Daily Mail

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