In a joint announcement dated 12 May 2014, Coventry-based RDM Automotive was named by Transport Systems Catapult as the company chosen to manufacture vehicles for the LUTZ Pathfinder, a Milton Keynes-based driverless vehicle demonstrator project.
RDM was appointed by Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) following a OJEU tender process, ahead of four rivals for the contract.
The company and Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), as the project manager, will be working with Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) to produce three prototype electric-powered pods for testing along the pavements of Milton Keynes next year.
Combination of technologies with potential for disruptive change
The self-driving pods are part of the TSC’s (re-named) Low Carbon Urban Transport Zone (LUTZ) Pathfinder programme, that will study the feasibility of autonomous on-demand vehicles. Carrying up to two passengers, and with a top speed of around 12 kilometres per hour (7 mph), the pods are intended to increase the number of mobility options available to the public, while also reducing congestion and carbon emissions.
The Transport Systems Catapult is supporting the LUTZ programme along with members of the Automotive Council; Department of Business, Innovation & Skills; Milton Keynes Council and industrial partners.
The five year programme intends to demonstrate the potential of autonomous vehicles, cloud-enabled mobility and transport on-demand services: a combination of technologies that could prvide one answer to the need for disruptive improvements to personal mobility in congested urban areas.
Test-track trials trials expected early 2015
RDM is scheduled to complete its first pod by the end of this year. Oxford University’s robotics technology with then install its robotic technologies prior to test-track trials in early 2015. After these trials are completed the pods will be tested in public on the pavements of Milton Keynes.
However, although the maximum speed of the vehicles is planned to be no more than a fast walking pace, due to safety concerns, for the assessment programme the three pods will have one seat permanently taken up by test drivers.
About the partners in the project
The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) is a centre for innovation that connects businesses with research and academic communities. One of seven Catapults created by the Technology Strategy Board, the TSC intends to drive UK leadership in Intelligent Mobility: the efficient and cost-effective movement of people and goods.
RDM Group employs 39 people providing engineering services to the automotive sector. In addition, its telematics and meditec divisions provide hardware and software solutions and innovative assisted-living products respectively.
Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group (MRG), based in the University’s Information Engineering Building at the Department of Engineering Science, specialises in mobile autonomy. In addition to its work on the pavement-based LUTZ Pathfinder pods, MRG is applying its technology to the Oxford RobotCar project – which is working towards the first public demonstration of a low-cost auto-drive navigation system on UK public roads.