London’s first zero-emission driverless cars based on Heathrow ‘pods’

Heathrow Airport has announced a new collaboration with a sports car developer and an autonomous solutions company to engineer new zero-carbon, fully autonomous, battery-operated carrier pods to act as shuttles around the streets of Greenwich.

As part of an £8m vehicle automation GATEway project – partly funded by Innovate UK – Heathrow has formed a consortium with Westfield Sportscars and Oxbotica to develop the pods using an entirely British supply chain.

The pods will be based on Heathrow’s current ‘Ultra POD’ models which have been in service at Heathrow Airport for the past five years, transporting more than 1.5 million passengers between terminals.

“The GATEway Project is a fantastic opportunity to seize on the potential of our leading-edge Ultra POD technology, which has already removed 70,000 bus journeys a year from Heathrow roads and the equivalent of 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year,” said Heathrow’s director of engineering and asset management Steve Chambers.

Tried and tested

The new pods will be adapted to navigate the surrounding streets, using a vertically integrated autonomy solution that incorporates mapping, localisation, perception and trajectory planning to ensure the safety of the driverless shuttles. A cloud-based management system will offer monitoring, reporting and booking options via a smartphone app.

Westfield Sportscars chief executive Julian Turner said: “We’re looking forward to bringing our innovative, lightweight, technology to a well-known and tried and tested platform.

“As well as a 100% British supply chain, we can bring a number of benefits to the GATEway project, including knowledge of type approval processes and advanced pure electric race and road car technology that will not only ensure the shuttle trials are a success, but  help put Greenwich and the UK at the forefront of automated mobility”.

Carbon departures

The new shuttles will originally be tested as part of a trial run to investigate public acceptance of automate shuttle technologies in a dense urban landscape. Other trials under the GATEway project include autonomous valet parking and automated deliveries.

UK airports have cut their carbon footprints by 3%, despite a 5% passenger rise since 2010.

Heathrow has set out 10 steps it will be taking to reduce environmental impact, invest in local communities and support economic growth as part of its 2020 sustainability goals. The Airport picked up the energy management award at edie’s 2015 Sustainability Leaders Awards.

Heathrow Airport at edie Energy Management Forum

Heathrow’s head of sustainability & environment Elizabeth Hegarty will be speaking at edie’s fifth annual Energy Management Conference – an essential one-day event for professionals who want to find innovative ways to reduce energy consumption, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Hegarty will be providing an insight into how Heathrow has delivered the world’s first BREEAM-certified airport terminal; used combined heat and power; and optimised the use of LED lights to minimise energy use.

Find out more about the Conference and register to attend here

Matt Mace

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