Testing of autonomous vehicles is due to begin on Manchester’s roads this July as part of Project Synergy, a £5m Innovate UK funded government project.
Three electric driverless vehicles known as PODs, created by Westfield Technology, will be offering journeys at Manchester Airport between the transport interchange and the entrance to Terminal 2.
Alongside the PODs, three driverless electric GTMs, a modified supercar, will be tested between Stockport railway station and Manchester Airport.
Initially mobility groups will be consulted with, to see if the PODs would offer an improvement on their current travel options, with the wider public invited to trial them afterwards as well. The trials will continue through to 2020.
The cars will operate autonomously in a platoon formation on the A6 Manchester Airport relief road. These vehicles are being tested to determine whether platooning could have a positive impact on congestion and energy/fuel use.
The thought of autonomous vehicles being on roads, for some, is quite daunting. However, Clare Cornes, intelligent mobility manager and Synergy project director at Westfield Technology Group said that “safety is paramount on this project” and that the company has “put together a testing programme that will challenge the vehicles and control system and ensure they’re safe for operations prior to both trials”.
Julian Turner, CEO of Westfield Technology said the reason for choosing Greater Manchester for the trials was because “the city region has always welcomed innovation and new developments in technology and engineering”, and this project demonstrates their “local commitment to maintaining this outlook. “
The project is the Westfield’s first local project managed by their newly opened Manchester office. Cornes added that the company is working with Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and Manchester Airport Group and that “their local knowledge and enthusiasm for collaborative development is key to the success of this project and the trials”.
The Westfield POD is a new version of the ULTra Global vehicle which is currently in operation at Heathrow Terminal 5.