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TS Catapult - LUTZ Pathfinder

Star treatment for driverless pod

11 Feb 2015 The LUTZ Pathfinder pod gets ready for its close up

Before heading down to Greenwich for Wednesday’s official launch, the LUTZ Pathfinder driverless pod prototype was the subject of a professional photo shoot by automotive photography specialist Simon Stuart-Miller.

Stuart-Miller, who has been shooting cars for almost 20 years, took the LUTZ Pathfinder photos in Milton Keynes, where the pods are due to be trialled later this year.

His images accentuate the futuristic design of the two-seater electric vehicles, as well as highlighting unique details, such as the array of sensors that are used by the pod to scan its environment.

“It was certainly a different type of assignment, and it was really exciting to be involved in the early stages of a vehicle that could have such a revolutionary effect on how we think about ‘driving’,” Stuart-Miller said.

"There has been talk about driverless car technology for years now but when you get to stand right next to the LUTZ Pathfinder pods, you get the sense that it's finally becoming reality - right here in Britain!"

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Visualising a driverless future

11 Feb 2015 The LUTZ Pathfinder pods are set to be the first driverless vehicles to be used on UK footpaths

There is still some work to do before members of the general public can take their first rides in a driverless pod, but a new 3D animation commissioned by the Transport Systems Catapult gives an early impression of how the self-driving future will look.

Wednesday’s launch of the first ‘LUTZ Pathfinder” driverless pod will involve one of the prototype models that will be used to trial the technology on a designated footpath area in Milton Keynes later this year. During this trial phase, the pods will still be fitted with brakes and a steering wheel, with a trained operator always in the vehicle and ready to take control if necessary.

Once the trial period has been successfully completed, however, a second phase is planned in which the fully autonomous pods will be available for use by the general public. For an early taste of this driverless future, simply click on the ‘play’ symbol below.

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Transport Systems Catapult unveils UK's first driverless pod

11 Feb 2015 The LUTZ Pathfinder pod will begin trials in Milton Keynes later this year

The first autonomous vehicle to run on UK public footpaths has been officially unveiled by the Transport Systems Catapult at a government launch event in Greenwich.

A prototype of the ‘LUTZ Pathfinder’ pods was presented to the media at the event, which was attended by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Transport Minister Claire Perry.The electric-powered vehicles can seat two people and are designed to work on pavements and pedestrianized areas. They are being built by RDM Group, one of the UK’s fastest growing advanced engineering companies, and will be equipped with sensor and navigation technology provided by the University of Oxford's Mobile Robotics Group.

Later this year, the pods will be tested in an "urban laboratory" using a route agreed with project partners Milton Keynes Council. This will be the first time driverless vehicles have been used in an urban community setting, and they will be gradually introduced following a series of tests in a safe, controlled, environment.

“Transforming how we travel”

“Technology such as driverless vehicles, intelligent phone apps, and social media, will transform how we travel in the future – making journeys safer, faster, and more connected,” said Transport Systems Catapult CEO Steve Yianni.

“Through the LUTZ Pathfinder programme, the Transport Systems Catapult has pioneered the introduction of driverless pods in Milton Keynes and the first ever tests in the UK will take place later this year in a controlled public environment. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and poised to become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”

“Safety is a key benefit of driverless technology, which is particularly relevant given the global trends of an increasing and ageing population.”

Neil Fulton, programme director at the Transport Systems Catapult, also stressed that safety would be the “number one priority” throughout the duration of the trials.

“This is reflected in [the pod’s] features ranging from pedestrian protection, low vehicle speed and large external radii to deformable panels, 19 electronic sensors/cameras and an emergency stop.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said: "Driverless cars are the future. These are still early days but today is an important step. I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment."

Scaling up

Wednesday’s event will also see the launch of the government’s regulatory review into the use of driverless vehicles on UK roads. There will also be presentations by the three consortia that have been selected to trial self-driving technology as part of the government’s ‘Introducing Driverless Cars’ competition.

As well as being the project lead for the LUTZ Pathfinder programme, the Transport Systems Catapult is also a partner in the £20M twin-city UK Autodrive consortium.

UK Autodrive will build on the findings of the LUTZ Pathfinder programme and scale this up to create a full city demonstrator that will eventually see public trials with a fleet of around 40 driverless pods using pedestrianized areas.

"The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology - from the all-electric cars build in Sunderland to the Formula One expertise in the Midlands," said Mr Cable. "The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a £900 billion industry by 2025."

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