The UK has taken its latest step in developing autonomous last-mile mobility, with the launch  (5 April) of a driverless shuttle trial in an urban environment.

Gateway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) researchers want to learn how the prototype pod reacts alongside people in a natural environment.

The shuttle will navigate a two-kilometre route around the Greenwich Peninsula, using sensors and autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles whilst carrying members of the public participating in the study.

It will also explore people’s preconceptions of driverless vehicles and barriers to acceptance through detailed interviews with participants before and after they ride in the shuttle.

Following this passenger-focused trial, the project will explore the potential for driverless pods to carry last-mile urban deliveries.

The Gateway Project is a research programme led by Transport Research Labortatory (TRL) and funded by government and industry. It aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for last-mile mobility, seamlessly connecting existing transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using a zero-emission, low-noise transport system.

Research findings from the project will guide the wider roll out of automated vehicle technology in all forms of surface transport, including cars, lorries and buses.

The prototype shuttle, dubbed ‘Harry’, uses an autonomy software system called Selenium, which enables real-time, robust navigation, planning and perception in dynamic environments.

Whilst the vehicle is designed to operate without a human driver, a safety steward will remain onboard at all times, complying with the UK’s code of practice on automated vehicle testing.

TRL academy director Nick Reed said: “This research is another milestone in the UK’s journey towards driverless vehicles and a vital step towards delivering safer, cleaner and more effective transport in our cities."