The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory has announced it will test a self-driving shuttle service that will move people along a two-mile riverside path near the O2 Arena in North Greenwich. The driverless pod, dubbed “Harry”, travels at a speed of just over 10mph, it can seat four people, and is completely controlled by a computer with no steering wheel or brake pedal, though a trained person on board at all times.
Harry was developed by Oxbotica, Heathrow Enterprises and Westfield Sportscars as part of the Gateway Project. It uses five cameras and three lasers to navigate along a riverside path used by pedestrians and cyclists. "The vehicle will see up to 100 metres ahead and if it detects something that it thinks is in its path it will come to a nice graceful halt. If it needs to emergency brake if somebody steps right in front, it can do that as well. It's been designed to be safe and fail-safe specifically in a pedestrianised environment."
Initially the trial is set to run for three weeks only and it is estimated only around 100 locals will be able to take rides during this time — out of some 5,000 people that applied to take part. Passengers could begin using the system by 2019 on a trial basis and it may eventually be rolled out elsewhere.
"This needs to be like any other form of transportation. It shouldn't be a white-knuckle ride for passengers. We know we've got the software right when the journeys are unremarkable,” Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, the company developing the pod’s self-driving systems, told The Telegraph.