Driverless Cars in London Move up a Gear

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.

By Tracey McBain