Driverless cars will be on the roads of Milton Keynes by the end of this month

MK has been chosen for major trial of the cars

By Sally Murrer
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 2:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 2:06 pm

A major trial of driverless cars will begin on the roads of Milton Keynes later this month - and people can order a ride through an app.

If the trials are successful, the service will run at Milton Keynes train station and be offered as a paid alternative to commuters.

The Fetch car system is backed by the government and Milton Keynes Council and the goal is to make remote driving safer than actual driving.

A driverless car. Image Imperium Drive/BBC

The tiny vehicles will not be autonomous and a human will control each one remotely from a control centre, People can order a ride by using a special app and the car will then be delivered to them.

Already the vehicles have been tested out on private land and car parks around MK Stadium, and one of the first official journeys was to take MK Dons footballers in to work. MK Dons players and staff will also be taking part in the trials.

Imperium Drive, the company behind the trials says a "safety driver" will be in every vehicle in the initial stages of the trial. But eventually the cars will go alone, with computer image algorithms to detect anything that is nearby.

Imperium chief executive Koosha Kaveh said: "There's still a human involved, but they'll be sitting in a control centre controlling the vehicle in the same way you would control a drone."

The driverless cars took MK Dons footballers in to work

He added: "We're working towards making remote driving safer than normal driving. In normal driving you still have blind spots around you that cause accidents. You also can't anticipate what's coming in terms of traffic, pedestrians, cyclists."

The head of Transport Innovation at Milton Keynes Council, Brian Matthews, said driverless cars will be commonplace in Milton Keynes within two years.

He said: "We're looking a range of solutions not just these driverless cars, but also larger shuttles using similar technology and four-seater pods that are completely autonomous.

"We've been working at this for a number of years. We want people to move away from single occupancy cars."

Meanwhile MK Dons performance director Simon Crampton hopes driverless vehicles will also help combat the spread of Covid-19.

"The biggest thing at the moment is Covid, because we can't start putting players together in cars, particularly with the omicron variant being very contagious," he said.

"Our players and staff can now order a vehicle through the app that will arrive at the front of the stadium to take them to training."