London is embracing driverless car technology with tests scheduled to begin this summer on the streets of the capital.
The vehicles taking part in the tests will effectively be up-cycled from shuttle pods already in use to ferry passengers at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. The shuttles will be part of the £8 million GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project.
The London-based project - jointly funded with Innovate UK - the government's innovation agency, and industry - is looking to test a range of features including driverless technology, autonomous valet parking and automated urban deliveries.
"If the trials prove successful, we expect these iconic vehicles to become a familiar sight in many cities around the world,” said Nick Reed, technical director of the GATEway project.
It is expected that seven of the cars – which will have their dedicated tracks removed - will be tested on the streets of Greenwich this July as part of three pilot schemes.
Routes are still being worked out but it is thought they will include a mix of residential areas, the North Greenwich tube station and businesses around the O2.
It is estimated that the driverless car market is growing at 16 per cent a year with government estimates suggesting it will be worth £900 billion annually globally within the next 10 years.
The UK government announced last year it would invest £100 million in research and development of autonomous cars, with industry expected to match that amount.