Solihull Council has launched an autonomous shuttle to operate on the roads around Birmingham Airport.
The self-driving electric shuttle will transport passengers as part of a council-led project which aims to test how connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) could be integrated into the borough’s future transport network.
Last year, Solihull Council became the first local authority in the UK to purchase a fully electric autonomous shuttle using a grant from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership. The Auto-ShuttleÒ was designed and manufactured by Aurrigo and uses LiDAR sensors to analyse and navigate its surroundings.
“We are delighted to be working with Solihull Council again to deliver another milestone, with Birmingham Airport becoming the first ever airport to test our autonomous shuttles on their roads. Aviation is a major opportunity for Aurrigo, with a genuine desire to find new technologies that can improve the passenger experience.”
The zero emissions self-driving shuttle can carry up to ten passengers and was initially demoed at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), where it operated autonomously on Solihull roads for the first time, carrying passengers along a pre-mapped route.
The CAV will now be deployed at Birmingham Airport for the next six weeks, where it will be used to transport passengers around a longer and more complex route while interacting with other road users. Throughout the testing, the shuttle will be limited to a top speed of 20mph. In line with current UK legislation, a safety operator will also be on board at all times to take control of the shuttle if required.
The trial route will provide airport staff with a new temporary service linking the Departures entrance and Diamond House to Car Park 5. In addition, the shuttle will be open to members of the public who want to experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK. Visitors to the airport can book a free ride here.
“Autonomous technology promises enormous benefits to airports and the service companies that support them, with the potential to transform the way we work and improve efficiency and safety, for passengers, staff and other airport users. We are really excited to be working with Solihull Council on this trial, which will provide us with invaluable insight into how we can start to safely incorporate CAVs into our vehicle fleet. This trial of fully electric vehicles, and testing their capabilities on site, is making sure we are working towards our net zero carbon target by 2033.”
This project is part of a wider UK Central investment programme, funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The programme is delivering a range of projects that build upon the establishment of the Midlands Future Mobility testbed, from walking and cycling improvement schemes to town centre redevelopments.
The results of the autonomous shuttle’s trial at Birmingham Airport will help develop local knowledge and experience of self-driving vehicles in a real-world environment, providing evidence to support the technology being rolled out in the future across Solihull.
“CAV technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas as well as transport goods. I’m excited to be the first Council in the country to purchase our very own zero-emission, road-legal, shared use Connected Autonomous Vehicle and we are keen to put it to use. This project 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, Birmingham Airport is the perfect place to trial our shuttle, providing the CAV with a busy, but controlled environment in which to gain further real world operating experience.”
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