THE FIRST UK passengers will be trying out driverless shuttles today, as the Gateway service launches on an experimental basis in Greenwich, London.
The Borough is one of the government's main testing grounds for smart-city tech, and from Wednesday, a group of applicants will be taking turns to ride the two mile riverside route, known as Olympian Way, on a path that passes near North Greenwich station, the Emirates Airline, the O2, Farmopolis and Ravensbourne College.
For the purposes of testing, there will be a driver aboard to intervene if anything goes wrong, but they will only have limited controls, with the 10mph shuttle, previously tested on rails at Heathrow, being guided by a computer. Their primary role will be to apply the emergency break if it all goes Pete Tong.
Sensors, consisting of five cameras and three lasers, will detect any stationary or approaching objects up to 100m ahead, giving it plenty of time to brake or change course which its maker Oxbotica claims makes it "fail safe".
Oxbotica which has already trialled self-driving cars in Milton Keynes, believes that it can get a passenger service up and running by 2019, and spread it to other areas too.
The company's chief executive Graeme Smith told the BBC: "Very few people have experienced an autonomous vehicle, so this is about letting people see one in person,"
"We hope to gain acceptance from members of the public for vehicles sharing this kind of space with them.
"We are also looking at how people in the vehicle respond when being transported from A to B."
New road markings have been laid to identify the route of the shuttle.
Amongst the other initiatives being trialled in the Borough are autonomous bots to delivery take away food, which are already becoming a familiar sight locally, though so far, these, too are limited to experimental deliveries with a human minder. µ
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