Date of release: Friday, January 29, 2016

First trials of driverless vehicles in Greenwich a step closerTrials of driverless vehicles involving the University of Greenwich are a step nearer today (Friday 29 January) as the companies responsible for developing the vehicle itself are named.

Three British companies, Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica, will adapt the existing 'Ultra PODs', currently in service at Heathrow Airport, to enable fully autonomous navigation around the streets of Greenwich.

The university's world-renowned research on public safety, carried out by the Fire Safety Engineering Group, will play an important part in the trials, which are due to start in Greenwich this summer.

Group Director Professor Ed Galea, who has an international reputation for his expertise on how people behave in emergencies, will explore pedestrian reaction to the automated vehicles.

Professor Galea says: "It sounds a little like science fiction but, not so long from now, driverless vehicles will be everywhere. We need to understand how pedestrians are likely to behave with them in order to design a safe environment where they can co-exist.

"We aim to develop modelling tools that can reliably simulate interaction between pedestrian and vehicle. These models will build on our established range of pedestrian and evacuation simulation tools."

The trials are part of GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), an £8 million project to understand and overcome the social, technical and legal barriers to using automated vehicles in an urban environment.

The GATEway project consortium is led by TRL and includes the Royal Borough of Greenwich, RSA Insurance Group, Telefonica O2, Shell, GOBOTiX Ltd, Commonplace, the Royal College of Art and the University of Greenwich.

To find out more about the work of the Fire Safety Engineering Group: http://fseg.gre.ac.uk

Story by Public Relations

Picture: The GATEway shuttle pods.