British town turns to self-driving vehicles

Located in the north of London, the city of Milton Keynes benefits from roads wide enough to reserve a segment for automated rolling capsules. Guided by guardrails, electric vehicles can transport at least two people and their luggage at a speed of around 20 km/h. They are able to stop automatically in the event of an obstacle and recharge when they drop their passengers. © Ultra Global PRT

While the technological advances in driverless cars are the subject of much talk, these vehicles will not be part of our daily lives for quite a while. Technologies are still very expensive, and there are important ramparts to cross (problem of car insurance, reliability and safety in dense urban areas, etc.). However, it is certainly in the field of public transport that the first automated wheel tours will take place for the general public.

Thus, the municipality of Milton Keynes, located a hundred kilometers north of London, decided to set up minibuses without a driver. Called “ultra pods” and built by Ultra Global PRT, these small vehicles have the appearance of tiny metro or automatic tram trains. They are powered by an electric motor capable of driving them at a speed of around 20 km/h. These “pods”, or “capsules”, will be able to transport at least two passengers and their luggage for two pounds (around 2.40 euros).

Reserve your driverless pod by smartphone

To have this service, it will be necessary to reserve the pod via a smartphone. But beware, there is no question of mixing with the traffic. These cabins will have their own reserved lanes marked by railings. They will integrate an on -board computer, managing a technological arsenal similar to that which can be found in driverless cars (GPS, sensors , high definition cameras). It will be able to brake automatically so as not to overturn a possible pedestrian or strike an obstacle in its path. And in the event of a major glitch, passengers will be able to take control of the vehicle.

Milton Keynes has already budgeted for the installation of a hundred of these vehicles so that the service will be operational from 2015, with a full deployment planned for 2017. They should replace part of the current bus network to transport passengers from the center. city ​​with office districts and the train station.