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Sci-fi pods heading to Milton Keynes in £65million project

By MK News  |  Posted: October 30, 2013

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DRIVERLESS pods could be heading to Milton Keynes as the city looks at new methods of transport for the future.

The £65million scheme run by the UK Automotive Council will be tested in Milton Keynes next year, and in the long-term, users will be able to hail pods using their smartphones or book them at certain locations.

They will be powered by an electric motor in each wheel and will travel at up to 12mph.

The autonomous vehicles will use high definition cameras and sensors to navigate around obstacles including people, roadworks, and buildings.

“This isn’t about a transport need we may necessarily have today,” said Geoff Snelson, director of strategy at Milton Keynes Council.

“We’re looking at the long term and we’re looking to the future, when we will have more cars on the street.

“We want to give people ways to find alternative transport which will offer them great convenience.

“I think the debate between buses and cars is a non-debate - we need a whole load of different methods of transport for the place to be competitive in the future.

“I think people can be proud of a place thinking ahead.”

Customers can use the pods from 2017 if tests go according to plan.

People will pay £2 for using them, which will link Central Milton Keynes train station to thecentre:mk and other offices.

And if the scheme is successful in Milton Keynes, further pods could be rolled out across Britain.

The technology is similar to Google’s self-driving car, which uses laser scanners, radar systems, cameras and a ‘position estimator’ on the front wheel to drive in America.

John Miles, chair of the Automotive Council’s working group, said Milton Keynes was a perfect place to pilot the scheme.

“Milton Keynes was chosen for the project because it has such a natural and attractive infrastructure,” said Mr Miles.

“It has all the pedestrian walkways and it’s an ideal place for doing this project because not many places have these things immediately available.”

Mr Miles also praised MK Council for their enthusiasm and support for the scheme.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It is important that the UK continues to innovate and is at the cutting edge of new technologies.

“Driverless cars have the potential to generate the kind of high skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for as well as cutting congestion, reducing pollution and improving road safety.

“This investment goes to the heart of our industrial strategy which is giving the British automotive industry the tools it needs to plan for long-term growth.”

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