Driverless shuttle pods to serve London roads

29 January 2016  •  Author(s): Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, Eurotransport

Heathrow driverless shuttle pods will soon serve the streets of London in a trial to develop pods capable of operating fully autonomously and safely.

Driverless shuttle pods to serve London roads

Heathrow Airport will be working in collaboration with Westfield Sportscars, and Oxbotica, to develop new iconic automated pods for public trials this summer in Greenwich, south London. The scheme forms part of the GATEway driverless car project.

The three companies, who have joined the GATEway project as consortium members, will be working together to develop the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at Heathrow Airport. Operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, these zero-emission, battery operated pods have carried more than 1.5 million passengers, and eliminated the need for 700,000 bus journeys and their associated emissions on local roads to the airport.

Driverless shuttle pods have carried more than 1.5 million passengers

The pods will be adapted for travel without the need for tracks and operate using an innovative cloud based shuttle management system, enabling the shuttles to operate as part of a synchronised, self-governing ecosystem. The system will provide smartphone booking applications, monitoring and reporting.

Steve Chambers, Director of Engineering and Asset Management at Heathrow said: “The GATEway Project is a fantastic opportunity to seize on the potential of our leading-edge ‘Ultra POD’ technology, which has already removed 70,000 bus journeys a year from Heathrow roads and the equivalent of 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.”

“If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world”

Professor Nick Reed, Academy Director at TRL and Technical Director for GATEway commented; “The addition of three prominent and respected British organisations to the GATEway consortium further strengthens the UK’s position as a leader in autonomous technologies. Each company brings a great deal of experience to the project which will prove valuable in helping us to understand how the public and industry will adapt to the use of automated vehicles in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab test environment in Greenwich. If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world.”

The GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8 million project jointly funded by Innovate UK and industry. The shuttle trial, which is one of three automated vehicle tests within the GATEway project, will investigate public acceptance of automated shuttle vehicles within the urban mobility landscape.

For more information about the project visit

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