One of the first fully driverless transport systems anywhere in the UK is to be launched in Belfast next year as part of an innovative project led by Belfast Harbour with funding from Innovate UK.
The ‘Harlander’ project will establish an automated passenger shuttle service, providing last mile connectivity in the Harbour Estate from the Titanic Quarter railway station to Thompson Dock in Queen’s Island. The service will transport residents, visitors and employees to venues such as Titanic Belfast, Catalyst and Belfast Metropolitan College. The operation of the shuttle will also support Belfast Harbour’s delivery of a Strategic Transport Masterplan for Queen’s Island.
Belfast Harbour is leading the development of the service alongside a consortium of partners that includes REE Automotive, Angoka, BT and Horiba Mira.
The initiative has been awarded £5.5m in funding from Innovate UK, which is working with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to invest £41.5m in innovation projects across the UK that demonstrate real world benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles.
Mike Dawson, People and Corporate Services Director at Belfast Harbour, said: “Belfast Harbour has a long track record of delivering and supporting innovation, so we are delighted to be establishing the UK’s first operationally ready and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on publicly accessible roads within the Harbour Estate. This announcement supports our Smart Port ambitions and shows our commitment to the development of Belfast’s Innovation District.
“The City’s Innovation District has enormous potential for growth and we at Belfast Harbour want to play our part in helping to build an innovation eco-system that brings investment into the economy. Electrified connected and automated vehicles offer a route to provide a clean, efficient, and affordable public transport that aligns with net zero targets and provides connectivity to other modes of transport.”
Business Secretary Grant Shapps added: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.
“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented: “Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.
“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”
Mike Dawson added more in this video:
(Picture – Belfast Harbour)