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Driverless shuttle test set for London shared-use cycle path

Oxford-based autonomous tech firm will run test on Greenwich riverside over the next three weeks

Cyclists and pedestrians on the shared-use Thames-side path in Greenwich will soon be jostling for space with a fleet of autonomous vehicles.

Over the next three weeks Oxford-based mobile autonomy firm Oxbotica will be testing its hardware in a bid to "gain acceptance from members of the public."

The shuttles or pods that will be being tested on a two-mile stretch of shared-use path near the O2 Arena feature much of the same technology that's contained in the driverless cars being developed by Google, Tesla, and various other automotive and technology companies.

>Read more: London's first driverless cars revealed and they'll be driving on the pavement

Each shuttle carries five cameras and three lasers which allow the vehicle to see 100m ahead of itself. The vehicle can carry four passengers, including one trained individual who can stop the pod if required.

The vehicle has a top speed of 10mph, doesn't have a steering wheel or an obvious brake. But despite the lack of conventional safety measures Oxbotica's CEO Graeme Smith told the BBC that the pods have been "designed to be safe and fail safe specifically in a pedestrianised environment."

Driverless vehicles have been met with a healthy amount of scepticism from members of the cycling and non-cycling public.

>Read more: Google working to make self-driving cars more aggressive

Fears over safety and accountability have coloured the debate surrounding the technology which advocates say will revolutionise the safety of our roads.

Smith, though, hopes that tests such as the one his firm is putting on in Greenwich this week will start to change that public perception.

"Very few people have experienced an autonomous vehicle, so this is about letting people see one in person," Smith said.

"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."

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