A driverless vehicle programme is set to hit the streets of Milton Keynes within the next two years as part of an experiment looking into the future of UK transport.
The two-year trial — backed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and several industry groups — will see 100 driverless pods deployed alongside pedestrians on the pavements of the Buckinghamshire town born in 1967.
The battery-driven two-person pods will run at speeds of up to 12mph, using GPS technology and sensors to avoid bumping into objects, people and each other.
The trial, revealed by The Sunday Times this weekend, is part of the Automotive Council UK’s five-year project, which will cost £65 million. A BIS spokesperson told Techworld that the Milton Keynes project will specifically cost £3 million and will be funded by equal contributions of £1.5 million from the public and private sector.
Following completion of the trial in 2017, passengers will be charged roughly £2 to travel between the town’s railway station, shopping centre and offices, raising an antpicipated £1 million a year. They will be able to use a smartphone app to pre-book the pods or “hail” them on the street.
If successful, the autonomous vehicles used in the Milton Keynes project could be introduced in towns and cities across Britain.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The number of cars in the world is expected to reach four billion by 2050, four times today’s number, so it is important that the UK 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 and pollution and improving road safety."
Google's own self-driving cars have clocked up 400,000 miles in the US state of California without accident, while Nissan has also announced plans to release an autonomous vehicle by 2020.