Solihull Council has become the first local authority in the UK to purchase its very own fully electric autonomous shuttles and begin passenger trials.
Funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the pilot will test how Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) might be integrated into the borough’s future transport network.
The trials will begin this month at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).
With support from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), Solihull Council procured the shuttle from Coventry-based autonomous vehicle specialists Aurrigo.
The shuttle can carry up to eight passengers and uses a suite of sensors to interpret its surroundings, allowing it to move around safely and interact with live traffic with little to no operator input.
The trial at the NEC will see the shuttle operate autonomously along a one mile pre-mapped section of Pendigo Way between Hall 5 and Resorts World.
For the purposes of the trial, in line with current UK legislation, an on-board safety operator will have the ability to take control if required.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “The region is at the cutting edge of the development of CAV technology, and this real world trial offers an excellent opportunity to understand the role that autonomous vehicles can play in our transport system.
“This technology has the potential to change the way that we travel and will no doubt become a key part of our future transport system.”
The project organisers are encouraging anyone who wants to take part and experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK to book a free ride.
This initial trial will critically evaluate the performance of self-driving vehicles in a real-world environment, facilitating potential future rollouts elsewhere in Solihull.
Councillor Ken Hawkins, cabinet portfolio holder for Environment and Infrastructure, said: “CAV technology has the potential to revolutionise the way that we get around our towns, cities and rural areas, as well as transport goods.
“This trial is all about looking at how we can practically and safely start to incorporate autonomous vehicles into our future transport infrastructure.
“Already one of the best connected destinations in the UK and Europe, the NEC is the perfect place to trial our shuttle and look at how it can be used to improve the first and last mile passenger experience.
“Alongside the obvious environmental benefits, this is an excellent example of how smart technology could be used to cut congestion and improve public transport.
“The results of our trials will provide learning on future mobility services and highway infrastructure design across all future development sites within Solihull and the wider region.”
Image: From left: Councillor Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment & Infrastructure at Solihull Council; Gary Masters, NEC Campus General Manager; Chris Lane, Head of Transport Innovation at TfWM; and Ewa Truchanowicz, GBSLEP Board Director. Credit: West Midlands Combined Authority
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