Solihull has become one of the first places in the UK to see driverless vehicles take to its roads as part of new passenger trials.
A council-led trial is getting underway to test out how Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) might be integrated into the borough’s transport network in the future.
Securing funds from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), Solihull Council has become the first local authority in the country to purchase its very own fully electric autonomous shuttle from Coventry-based Aurrigo, which it will be trialling at the NEC over the next month.
The shuttle can carry up to eight passengers and uses a suite of sensors to understand its surroundings, allowing it to move around safely, interacting with live traffic with little or no operator input.
For the purposes of the trial, in line with current UK legislation, a safety operator will be on-board at all times, who will have the ability to take control of the shuttle if required.
‘CAV technology has the potential revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas as well as transport goods,’ said Cllr Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment & Infrastructure.
‘This trial is all about looking at how we can practically and safely start to incorporate autonomous vehicles into our future transport infrastructure. Already one of the best connected destinations in the UK and Europe, the NEC is the perfect place to trial our shuttle and look at how it can be used to improve the first and last mile passenger experience.
‘Alongside the obvious environmental benefits, this is an excellent example of how smart technology could be used to cut congestion and improve public transport.
‘The results of our trials will provide learning on future mobility services and highway infrastructure design across all future development sites within Solihull and the wider region, including integration with the HS2 Interchange at Arden Cross.’
This project forms part of the wider West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) funded UK Central investment programme, which is delivering a wide range of projects, from walking and cycling improvement schemes through to town centre redevelopment and builds on the establishment of the Midlands Future Mobility testbed.
Cllr Andy Mackiewicz, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Planning & Housing, commented: ‘We know that 39% of carbon emissions in the borough are currently attributed to transport, with road traffic accounting for nearly all of this. Urgent action will be required in this area if we are going to achieve our net zero carbon aspirations for the borough by 2041.
‘Automated Vehicle technology presents us with a fantastic opportunity to address the dual issues of vehicle emissions and single occupancy journeys.’
Ewa Truchanowicz, Board Director, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: ‘It’s fantastic to see the fully electric autonomous vehicle operating at the NEC. We allocated £250,000 from our Local Growth Fund into this Solihull Council-led trial as we recognise the huge potential for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).
'This is one element of our wider GBSLEP vision to deliver clean growth across our region. By reducing CO2 emissions and reducing congestion through shared occupancy, CAVs will have an impact on the way we all travel in the future. I would encourage people to take part and experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK!’