The UK will start new trials of three driverless electric shuttle buses in the city of Cambridge in June. The small-capacity shuttle will drive a 20-minute two-mile journey between three points, including parts of the University of Cambridge.
The Auto-Shuttles, as they’re called, are built by Aurrigo and part of a joint venture between the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and Smart Cambridge, and have already completed a preliminary round of driverless tests around the University of Cambridge’s West campus. Each bus can seat 10 passengers at a time and travel as fast as 20 miles per hour (32km/h); the shuttle’s battery can run for approximately 124 miles on a single charge, as well.
Aurrigo CEO David Keene said “We’ve completed successful trials in city centres but this is the first time these custom-made vehicles will be sharing the route with other traffic while carrying passengers. [It’s a] major milestone in the journey toward making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads.”
Although the buses are driverless, safety operators will be on board to ensure things run smoothly. As with other electric vehicles, the shuttles have a variety of cameras, sensors, and laser scanners equipped to help them better detect and navigate obstacles and hazards.
Claire Ruskin, director of Cambridge Network and business representative on the GCP, said “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 June test route will shuttle passengers between Madingley park and ride, the West Cambridge campus, and the Institute of Astronomy. Passengers recruited for the test will be able to use the companion app that’ll let them be picked up at a variety of location choices.