Milton Keynes to hold large-scale driverless car trial




 

A major trial of driverless cars on the public roads will begin in Milton Keynes later this month.

The Fetch car system, backed by the government and Milton Keynes Council, will allow people to order a car through an app.

The car, which is remotely controlled by an operator, will then be delivered to them.

The company behind the trials says a "safety driver" will also initially be in every vehicle.

"It's driverless but not autonomous," said Koosha Kaveh, the chief executive of Imperium Drive, the company behind the trials.

"There's still a human involved, but they'll be sitting in a control centre controlling the vehicle in the same way you would control a drone."

He said to start with, a safety driver will be present for every journey.

"We're working towards making remote driving safer than normal driving. In normal driving you still have blind spots around you that cause accidents. You also can't anticipate what's coming in terms of traffic, pedestrians, cyclists.

He said the company has computer image algorithms that detect anything that is near the car.

"Our goal is to make remote driving safer than actual driving," he said.

Preliminary trials of the "Fetch" driverless cars have been going on for some time on private land and car parks around Milton Keynes stadium, the home of MK Dons football club.

Their players and staff will be taking part in the trials.

The performance director for MK Dons, Simon Crampton, said driverless vehicles will be especially helpful to players because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The biggest thing at the moment is Covid, because we can't start putting players together in cars, particularly with the omicron variant being very contagious.

'Range of solutions'

"Our players and staff can now order a vehicle through the app that will arrive at the front of the stadium to take them to training."

If the trials are successful, the service will be expanded to Milton Keynes train station and offered as a paid service for commuters.

The head of Transport Innovation at Milton Keynes Council, Brian Matthews, said driverless cars will be commonplace in the town within two years.

"We've been working at this for a number of years. We want people to move away from single occupancy cars.

"We're looking a range of solutions not just these driverless cars, but also larger shuttles using similar technology and four-seater pods that are completely autonomous."

Oxford became the first city to hold driverless car trials in the UK in late 2020.

The trial, which was due to end last Autumn, saw vehicles drive a nine-mile round trip from Oxford Parkway railway station to Oxford's city centre station.

A consultation to update the Highway Code was launched in spring 2021 to "ensure the first wave of this technology is used safely and responsibly".

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