China gives the nod to MK pods

Council leader Pete Marland
Council leader Pete Marland

Driverless pod cars are steering Milton Keynes to worldwide success - with 1,000 potentially set for export to China.

Chancellor George Osborne is accompanying city council leader Pete Marland to China next week to pave the way for a deal during a trade delegation.

“While the rest of the country imports from China, Milton Keynes could be exporting to there,” said Councillor Marland.

“It is fantastic that we are at the forefront of this global technology race.”

The electric-powered pods were unveiled this week outside MK Central rail station by the city-based Transport Systems Catapult.

Milton Keynes Council is a key partner in the pioneering project to trial the 15mph automated vehicles in pedestrian areas.

Already Mr Marland has vowed to make them become part of the local transport system as soon as possible.

“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,” he said.

Mr Marland said officials from a Chinese city have already called the council requesting to buy 1,000 of the pods as soon as they are manufactured in bulk.

“The Mayor of New York is also very interested in how they develop. There is huge potential for MK business to both export to China and to get investment,” he said.

As well as bringing prestige to MK, the tiny pods could also help the council’s current cash problems, Mr Marland has hinted.

“If the trials go well, the council may wish in the future to take a stake in any business opportunity that arises,” he said.

The LUTZ Pathfinder pods are manufactured by Coventry-based RDM group and the autonomous control systems have been developed by Oxford University.

The aim is to eventually make them an everyday means of public transport, with people being able to use their smartphones.