Monday 7 June 2021

Cambridge Launches Electric Autonomous Shuttles

Cambridge has become one of the first smart cities in the UK to trial autonomous vehicles – investigating the feasibility of the technology being used as part of a public transport service in the future. The vehicles are operating on public roads and mixing with normal traffic.

Self-driving shuttles are transforming the way people travel and are operating in Cambridge at the Madingley Road Park & Ride site.

In April 2021, the team were able to return to the site after lockdown and the first shuttle started its engineering trial – mapping a route from the Park & Ride around the University of Cambridge’s West Cambridge campus.

The vehicles, known as ‘Auto-Shuttles’, can travel at 20mph (32km/h) with a range of 100 miles (161km) between charges.
Although the shuttles are automated, a safety operator will currently  be in the vehicle at all times.

The trial – part of a project led by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), Smart Cambridge and engineering firm Aurrigo – will examine how autonomous technology can be used on the public transport network.

Claire Ruskin, Director of Cambridge Network and the business representative on the GCP Executive Board, said: “It is very exciting to see these vehicles working on real roads here as another first in Cambridge.  These shuttles can be used on demand all day and night, every day of the year – which is unaffordable with our existing public transport.

“They are flexible and make good use of resources without needing much infrastructure.  As employment around Cambridge is 24/7 for many organisations – including our hospitals, emergency services, and many of our labs – we have been anticipating this new technology to see how real operation will help people get around.”

The GCP and Smart Cambridge secured funding from the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) in 2018 to launch the project.

It is anticipated that passengers recruited for the project will be able to use an Aurrigo App that will allow them to be picked-up at a number of locations across the two-mile route, but details about the costs for passengers have yet to be announced.

“This is another major milestone in the journey towards making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” explained David Keene, Chief Executive Officer of Aurrigo.

“We’ve completed successful trials in city centres, in retirement complexes and at major golf tournaments, but this is the first time these vehicles are sharing the route with everyday traffic.

“The shuttles will operate the 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge route [and] will run autonomously for the majority of the route using our in-house developed Auto-Stack driving software and the latest LIDAR and camera technology to identify potential hazards as they move around.”

See a 6 minute video here