Take a Look at the First Driverless Cars Headed to London

By Gerald Lynch on at

Lie back, put your feet up, have a snooze – Londoners, you're looking at the first driverless cars to hit your streets, ready to take you to your destination without you needing to go anywhere near the wheel.

If they look a little familiar, that's because there's a good chance you've taken a ride in one before, or at least a version of them. The Gateway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) consortium, which will be conducting driverless trials in Greenwich, is taking the UltraPODs that now run on tracks at Heathrow airport and modifying them for on-the-road use.

British car manufacturer Westfield Sportscars will be responsible for the pod builds, as well as the testing, while a joint effort between Heathrow Enterprise and Oxbotica will deliver software, mapping and safety sensors. The vehicles replace those shown off by autonomous car specialists Phoenix Wings at the scheme's launch last year.

Seven of the adapted electric passenger shuttles will take to the pavements of the Greenwich Peninsula, near the O2 Arena venue, in July. Each pod will carry six passengers (one steward), and will be tested for three months, starting off with invite-only passengers. Though routes are still being decided, they'll likely ferry people between the venue, local residential areas, the nearby North Greenwich tube station and shops and restaurants around the O2 complex.

As well as the Greenwich trial, driverless test schemes will be taking place in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, as part of an £8m project jointly funded by the government's Innovate UK agency and third-party industry members.