In context: Autonomous vehicle technology is on the rise, and numerous companies have reached major milestones in this industry. Waymo has begun a limited rollout of its completely driverless ride-hailing service, and Tesla vehicles continue to get impressive (but buggy) new self-driving features every year.
Now, UK-based self-driving tech R&D organization Capri Mobility is working on an autonomous vehicle experiment of its own. Yesterday, Capri began offering South Gloucestershire and Bristol residents the opportunity to ride in their "driverless pods." These pods are relatively small four-person vehicles with rounded roofs, large glass windows, and -- of course -- no safety drivers of any kind.
Capri's public pod testing will continue over the following week between the hours of 10AM and 4PM every day. On January 26, the public trial will come to an end, and Capri will take whatever lessons it learned from the experiment and use them to improve upon its technology for future tests.
Capri's current trial is taking place at the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, and its current aim is to offer shoppers the chance to "experience autonomous vehicles" and learn more about the technology in use. Indeed, public education is a major part of Capri's operations -- the organization is doing its best to show the world how autonomous vehicles work while eliminating some common fears and misconceptions.
Capri's reason for choosing the Mall at Cribbs Causeway as a testing location is two-fold. First, given how much foot traffic the commercial destination gets, it's an excellent way for Capri to learn how its pods will react in a complex, ever-changing environment. Second, Capri hopes that, someday, this sort of technology will "improve customer [experiences]" and allow Mall owners to replace parking lots with more condensed pick-up and drop-off points.
Naturally, Capri is keeping safety in mind with its latest test. Its pods reportedly admit an "audible sound" to alert nearby passerby to their presence, and "Safety Marshals" walk near the pods at all times to answer the public's questions and ensure that nothing goes wrong.
If you live in Bristol and you want to take one of Capri's pods for a spin, there don't appear to be any special forms to fill out or sign-ups to worry about. Just go to the Mall at the appropriate time and look for one of Capri's workers -- they'll be able to point you in the right direction.