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Meet the driverless cars coming to cities across the UK: Photos

Trials of two autonomous vehicles have kicked off in a number of places across the country - but while they'll be carrying passengers, the driverless cars aren't taking to the roads just yet.
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By Liam Tung, Contributor on
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1 of 9 Image: Catapult Transport Systems

Google's been testing driverless cars for years, while Uber is working with Carnegie Mellon University to create vehicles that may one day no longer need humans behind the wheel, and Germany is looking towards an autobahn populated by autonomous cars.

The UK is also eyeing a stake in what it believes could be a £900bn industry by 2025, with the government today announcing pilots of a new driverless two-seater pod (pictured above) and the first driverless shuttle for carrying passengers in the country's cities.

But unlike the US and Germany, the UK’s driverless cars won’t be hitting the highway but rather will be used on footpaths, sharing spaces with pedestrians. Trials of the two vehicles begin in the London borough of Greenwich, followed by Bristol, Milton Keynes, and Coventry.

Image: Catapult Transport Systems

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2 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

The Meridian Shuttle

The first driverless car in UK will hit the streets of Greenwich, home to the O2 events venue. The fully autonomous Meridian Shuttle was developed by Greenwich-based company Phoenix Wings, which has ties to French startup INDUCT SAS, the company that developed the NAVIA autonomous vehicle that was on show at this year’s CES.

Image: Department of Transport

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3 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

European roots

The Meridian Shuttle bears some resemblance to the NAVIA, but the British vehicle draws its name from Greenwich, the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the prime meridian - the global reference point for time and navigation.

The NAVIA vehicles have been used previously in the Illkirch Innovation Park in Strasbourg, France, as well as the Rolex Learning Center at Innovation Park at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Image: Induct

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4 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

LUTZ Pathfinder

The second vehicle in the UK trials, the LUTZ Pathfinder, will arrive on footpaths in Milton Keynes later this year.

It's named LUTZ after the Low-carbon Urban Transport Zone program, which attracted £1.5m of investment in 2013 for the UK’s first driverless cars.

Image: Catapult Transport Systems

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​Filled with sensors and a MacBook Pro

The new vehicles come equipped with cameras, lasers, radars, and LIDARs. The sensor and navigation equipment onboard is provided by the University of Oxford's Mobile Robotics Group.

According to the Guardian, the sensors are connected to a MacBook Pro, which will help produce 3D maps of its routes in Milton Keyes.

Image: Catapult Transport Systems

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6 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

Two-seater pedestrian vehicle of the future

The vehicles can seat two people. The two doors run almost the entire length of the vehicle and, to maximise space, the wheels are extended as far as possible to the front and rear. As can be seen in this photo, the initial trial vehicles will include a steering wheel for driver control.

Image: Catapult Transport Systems

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7 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

Top speed of 15mph

The UK has a rich history of making fuel-guzzlers and Formula 1 race cars, but you won’t see this LUTZ pathfinder in a Top Gear challenge. These vehicles are made for footpaths and will share space with pedestrians, so they’ve got a top speed of 15mph and can drive continuously up to 40 miles.

The first trial vehicles will be driver-controlled and will have brakes, according to Neil Fulton, programme director at the Transport Systems Catapult.

Image: Catapult Systems Transport

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8 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

​BAE Wildcat

There is one off-roader in the UK's driverless car trial. The Wildcat, based on a Bowler vehicle, is the product of a £1m military project by BAE Systems. It won't be seen on footpaths if all goes to plan: it's set for a trial deployment in Bristol where BAE built the vehicle before handing it over in 2012 to Oxford University as part of a driverless vehicle experiment.

Image: The Department of Transport

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9 of 9 Liam Tung/ZDNet

Alongside the £19m driverless vehicle project announced today, the UK is also running GATEway, an £8m project in Greenwich that’s assessing whether automated transport will improve the existing transport network of trains, bikes, roads, underground, buses, taxis, river buses, and cable cars.

UK vehicle simulation firm TRL is leading the GATEway project. As it points out, Greenwich is an ideal location for the trial in part because of the transport infrastructure connected to the O2 stadium.

TRL will use its driving simulator, DigiCar, to investigate driver behaviour with automated vehicles using a 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula. Meanwhile, the Shoreditch-based crowd-sourcing outfit Commonplace will use social media to map public responses, while robotics expertise will be provided by Shrewsbury-based GOBOTiX.

Dozens of other UK and international firms will be participating in the trials through the UK Autodrive consortium, from Oxford University's Mobile Robotics Group spinoff and navigation specialist Oxbotica to Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, and insurance giant AXA.

Image: Catapult Transport Systems

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