VIDEO: ‘We are beating Google to the world stage’

Commuters were given the chance to get up close and personal with the world’s first pod vehicle being trailled on city streets.

Outside MK central train station today, a team of experts were on hand to answer questions from curious members of the public as the pod was unveiled.

Council leader Pete Marland

Council leader Pete Marland

It is the first of three to be showcased in Milton Keynes as part of a pioneering project to trial automated vehicles in pedestrianised areas.

Council leader Pete Marland said: “This is brilliant for Milton Keynes - we are beating Google to the world stage.

“Unlike a car, which is parked for 95 per cent of its lifetime, the pod will be working the whole day until it needs to go back and charge itself.

“We want this to be part of our transport system as soon as possible.”

First pod launched in Milton Keynes

First pod launched in Milton Keynes

The pods are currently undergoing a series of “calibration tests”, but the vision is for there to be 40 vehicles based at the station in the next three years.

During the trial the pods will be driven in manual mode – allowing them to map and ‘learn’ their environment.

They will then begin to operate in autonomous mode, but with a trained operator still remaining in each pod, ready to take back control of the vehicle if necessary.

The pods will have a maximum capable speed of 15 mph (24km/h) but will be limited electronically depending upon the environment they are travelling in.

The public will be able to book to use the pods on their phones and be taken up to the city centre.

Steve Yianni, Transport Systems Catapult CEO, said: “This is a very exciting day for everybody involved in the LUTZ Pathfinder project, because it signals the completion of the manufacturing phase and the effective start of the autonomous technology trial.

“When you consider that there wasn’t even a design in place for this vehicle less than 18 months ago, it has been a really quick turnaround to now have our first research vehicle ready to start work, and this has only been possible as a result of our successful collaboration with RDM, MRG and Milton Keynes Council.”