Public Tests Driverless Technology in London

The shape of things to come?

Driverless technology has arrived in the nations capital and over the next three weeks members of the public will be able to enjoy an extended trial of a driverless shuttle bus. It is expected that 100 people will travel in a prototype shuttle on a route in Greenwich, London.

While the vehicle, which travels up to 10mph (16.1kmph), will be controlled by a computer there will also be a trained person on board who can stop the shuttle if required. Perfect for the more nervous passenger!

Oxbotica, who developed the shuttle, reported that 5,000 members of the public were eager to participate and had applied to take part.

"Very few people have experienced an autonomous vehicle, so this about letting people see one in person," chief executive Graeme Smith told the BBC. "We hope to gain acceptance from members of the public for vehicles sharing this kind of space with them. We are also looking at how people in the vehicle respond when being transported from A to B."

The shuttle can accommodate a maximum of four people at one time and has no steering wheel or brake pedal. During the trial, five cameras and three lasers will help it navigate a two-mile riverside path near London's O2 Arena, an area also used by pedestrians and cyclists.

It can see up to 100m (328ft) ahead and comes to a steady stop if it detects something in its path - although it can also do an emergency brake if required.

"It's been designed to be safe and fail-safe specifically in a pedestrianised environment," Dr Smith said.

Officials behind the Gateway Project believe the shuttles could improve transport links in Greenwich.

Industry Minister Nick Hurd said: "The UK has a history of innovation in the auto sector and this type of technology has the potential to save lives as well as offer freedom to the elderly or those with mobility impairments."

It is thought paying passengers could begin using the system by 2019 on a trial basis and that it could eventually be rolled out elsewhere.

By Tracey McBain