The jury may still be out on how safe driverless vehicles really are but that didn’t stop a trial run for the futuristic “driverless pods” at a shopping center near Bristol.
The trial is part of a larger effort that hopes to see these vehicles on the streets of the UK soon.
You can see the electric vehicles in action here:
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Video credit: Rumble
Infrastructure company AECOM ran the trial and later this year could see a full “open road” trial.
The vehicles were tested at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway which is just north of Bristol. The objective of the test was to see if the pods could navigate large obstacles that you would encounter on a daily basis.
The British-made vehicles are electric and operate fully autonomously so the team wanted to see how it would perform in places where there are scooters, pedestrians, bikes, and animals.
The pods drove between the shopping center and the car park and gave people a “taster” of a driverless trip.
The vehicles were already tested at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and use a mix of sensors, radar, and AI to get through crowded areas.
Unlike the London trial where a “supervisor” monitored the controls, the shopping center test did not include a backup driver in the pod.
Despite being able to go faster, they haven’t traveled more than 5 mph because they’ve only been tested on private roads so far.
On its website, AECOM states, “Autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve customer experience.”
Whole shopping centers could be redesigned to accommodate the possibilities the vehicles could bring. For instance, car parks could be replaced with drop-off and pick-up points for pods going to and coming from the center. Or have cars drop off passengers who will be picked up by pods and brought to the shopping center.
The team responsible for the test said: “The research project will broaden the UK’s knowledge of the impact of connected and autonomous vehicles and help inform the future direction of their development and implementation.”
A group of 17 companies and organizations make up the Capri consortium and they are working together to develop a “complete autonomous pod solution.”
Among the partners involved in the consortium are universities, airports, councils, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
In the near future, the hope is for pods to act as an Uber to pick you up and drop you off at your desired destination.
A final trial will be held at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will involve four pods that will go from public roads to pedestrian areas.