Milton Keynes has been selected to trial a new self-driving shuttle as part of a Europe-wide research project that’s the longest and most geographically complex of its kind. The LivingLAPT project is funded by EIT Urban Mobility and led by University College London (UCL).
An autonomous shuttle uses five lidar sensors and seven cameras to create a full 360-degree view around the vehicle and navigate safely along public roads. It has an operator on board, capable of taking control at any time. The trial follows similar successful trials in Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic in 2023 and in Helmond, Hasselt, Kongberg and Ricany in 2022.
However, in Milton Keynes – widely considered a living laboratory for research thanks to its involvement in a range of emerging technology trials – the shuttle will navigate multiple stops and carriageways for a far longer period.
Operated by the UK-based transport technology specialist Aurrigo, the fully accessible electric shuttle can carry up to 15 passengers throughout November. From this week, it will run a city centre loop connecting Santander’s new UK HQ at Unity Place with centre:mk, the Theatre District and Station Square.
The shuttle will be monitored by UCL whose research team will be in Milton Keynes talking with users in the trial to find out how the service can be developed to meet passenger needs.
Local people can also share their thoughts about automated shuttles with UCL through this short survey.
Cllr Jennifer Wilson-Marklew, Cabinet Member for Climate Action and Sustainability, said: “Once again, Milton Keynes is at the forefront of a new, sustainable technology trial. We’ve proven again and again that the city is a brilliant destination for technology leaders to develop their plans into real world solutions. This important research into self-driving vehicles on public roads is creating a template for cities around the world to follow. We’ll work alongside University College London to ensure everyone benefits from the data they gather.”
Bani Anvar, Professor of Intelligent Mobility & Lead of LivingLAPT, UCL, added: “Our European journey is pushing the boundaries of autonomous vehicles, aiming to reduce the need for human safety operators while fine-tuning the intricate balance of safety and trust. Pioneering research into the workload assessment of teleoperators stationed at control centres, has further enriched our activities. This 25-minute ride in Milton Keynes, where these self-driving vehicles seamlessly navigate complex city intersections, traffic signals, and diverse road users, is an exciting blend of cutting-edge science and automotive innovation.”
David Keene, CEO, Aurrigo, said: “Aurrigo are pleased to be returning to Milton Keynes to move the game on in autonomous electric vehicle deployments in real-world situations. We have worked in the city since 2018 and we appreciate working with a forward thinking, innovative city that is keen to demonstrate the benefits that can be brought to citizens of Milton Keynes and across the UK by a self-driving electric vehicle like the Auto-Shuttle.”
The research project will also see a new autonomous delivery shuttle test its capabilities at Stadium MK. Operated by Bring Auto and using a Smart Fleet Management platform from Applied Autonomy, the shuttle is about the size of a small car and will take deliveries around the stadium site over a two-week period during November. It can interact with an external ordering system to fulfil orders without the involvement of a human operator.