Self-Driving Pods Are Now Buzzing Around Greenwich

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Driverless pods are now up and running in Greenwich, thanks to the UK's GATEway Project. A meeting of government and business, headed up by he UK's Transport Research Laboratory, the GATEway Project is a far-reaching self-driving effort that has been in the works for some time, and is finally starting to bear tangible, publicly useful fruit. That fruit comes in the form of a completely autonomous pod nicknamed "Harry". Harry units max out at a mere 10 miles per hour, in the interest of safety, and include all of the usual sensors that one would expect to see on a self-driving vehicle like the ones built by Google and Uber. A safety operator is on board to operate an emergency brake, but that's all the human control they have. They're currently rolling around limited areas of Greenwich on a trial basis, and about 100 people are expected to be taken for a spin before the test is over.

Signups to try out a Harry unit have been open for roughly a year; they were supposed to have begun hitting city streets back in December of 2016. The Harry units are actually the same Ultra Pods in use at Heathrow Airport, but they've been completely retrofitted with all of the self-driving tech that the TRL could muster. Their purpose, at this point, is as a mere proof of concept; not only do they demonstrate self-driving technology, but how such technology could be applied on a small scale to help ease urban foot traffic in areas like business districts, where people could easily park their normal car nearby, then use something like a Harry for the last leg of the trip.

The Harry units not only open up the opportunity for the public to step forward and give their opinions on self-driving tech and tell TRL how the ride was, but the pods themselves generate about four terabytes of useful data every eight hours of operation, which can be used to help move self-driving technology along. At this time, plans for future tests or a wider rollout were not announced, and will likely depend on how this test goes.

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