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26 February, 2018 - 10:35 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge wins £3.2m to trial driverless bus shuttle service

A driverless bus shuttle service is on the cards for Cambridge following the award of £3.2 million government funding. The money will be used to build and trial six 10-15-seater self-driving shuttles to operate on the southern section of the existing guided busway, initially for an out-of-hours service, when ordinary buses aren’t running. 

The guided busway is segregated from general traffic and therefore offers a unique opportunity to trial autonomous vehicles running past major residential and employment sites.

The trial will pave the way for an autonomous shuttle service that will run in the early mornings, late evenings and during the weekends, filling the current void for shift workers, revellers and weekend shoppers.

The initial service will run between Trumpington Park and Ride and Cambridge Station, via the strategically important Cambridge Biomedical Campus site including Addenbrooke’s and Papworth Hospital and leading life science companies such as AstraZeneca.  

If successful, self-driving vehicles could then be rolled-out elsewhere round Greater Cambridge, for example to link some of the science and business campuses to each other or to rural travel hubs.

The project is due to get underway later this year, with the prototype vehicles being tested in late summer 2019 and the first passengers stepping on board in summer 2020.

Smart Cambridge, which led by Cambridgeshire County Council, and the Greater Cambridge Partnership secured the grant from the Centre of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), delivered by Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency.

The successful bid came as a result of pioneering feasibility studies commissioned and funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership working with the University of Cambridge, as part of the GCP’s mission to find innovative solutions to improve the area’s transport networks.

The autonomous vehicles will be developed by Coventry-based engineering firm Aurrigo, the AV division of RDM Group, which, at the GCP and Smart Cambridge’s invitation, ran a trial with an autonomous four-seater ‘pod’ in Cambridge last year.

The funding was announced by Richard Harrington, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He said: “The projects that we are nurturing mean that we are a step closer to securing our place as a world leader in self-driving vehicles.”

Innovate UK chief executive Ruth McKernan, added: “The quality and commercial potential of these successful projects demonstrate how UK businesses are developing pioneering connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. The impact will benefit our thriving automotive industry and the economy as a whole.”

Aurrigo will now design and manufacture a larger version of its four passenger self driving pods to suit the location and customer needs, with the ‘autonomous shuttles’ able to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility scooters and bicycles.

• PICTURED ABOVE: Concept image of autonomous vehicle on the Southern section of Cambridge Busway © Aurrigo.

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