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Self-driving pod trials gain strong local support

The LUTZ Pathfinder trial is being overseen by the Transport Systems Catapult organisation and is using up to three electric-powered two-seater pods to operate in self-driving mode on local roads in the town, accompanied by a trained test driver.

The pods have been designed and manufactured by Coventry-based automotive innovation experts RDM Group and are equipped with an autonomous control system developed by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.

In response, a survey carried out by YouGov has found that 61% of adults living in Milton Keynes would be interested in using the pods for making ‘short hop’ journeys. That compared to interest levels of 38% among respondents in the UK as a whole and 48% for respondents who had already heard something about the project before taking part in the survey – suggesting that familiarity with the trials is helping to improve public attitudes towards the technology.

“The LUTZ Pathfinder project is trialling the technical capabilities of self-driving vehicles, but it also has an equally important role in increasing public awareness about this technology, and its potential benefits,” said Transport Systems Catapult CEO Steve Yianni.

“It’s wonderful to see how much the people of Milton Keynes are getting behind the project, and we’ll continue to engage with the public and watch how they interact with the pods as the project progresses.”

The trial will culminate in a public demonstration of the technology, due to take place in Milton Keynes later this year. Findings from the trial will also be fed into the larger-scale three-year UK Autodrive programme which will involve a fleet of 40 pods as well as regular road-based cars operating in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.