The first steps onto the road for real are taking place on the journey to driver free vehicles.

The bikes, cars, pedestrians and lorries of Cambridge have been joined by a new type of road user; the Aurrigo Auto-Shuttle.

This is a UK first for the ominously titles ‘First and last mile’ transport. Despite other trials, this is the first time autonomous vehicles have been tested on main roads, surrounded by other traffic.

All aboard

The ten seater shuttles are fitted with an array of sensors, laser scanners and cameras to build a map of how they move through the environment. These same sensors also inform the vehicle where it is on the map, enabling it to operate fully autonomously. There are three of the passenger carrying vehicles driving around the city, with safety operators ready to take over immediately if needed.

The trial will be explore how autonomous technology can be used on the public transport network. It will explore how smart technology can be used to cut congestion and improve public transport. Understanding transport solutions for shift workers, weekend shoppers and ‘revellers’ is a key area of research.

Passengers will be able to use an app to book pick-ups at a number of locations along the two-mile route.

One step beyond

“This is another major milestone in the journey towards making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” said Aurrigo CEO David Keene. It comes after a number of successful trials, but this is the first time these vehicles will be sharing the route with everyday traffic.

“The shuttles will operate the 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge route. They will run autonomously for the majority of the route using our in-house developed Auto-Stack driving software and the latest lidar and camera technology to identify potential hazards.”

The Auto-Shuttle has a range of over 190km, with a lightweight composite frame powered by a 22kW electric motor. The cabin includes space for wheelchair users, who can access the vehicle via an automatically-deployed ramp.