Coming to a city near you

A driverless car has been tested on UK streets for the first time.

A two-seater Pathfinder, built by Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) travelled 1.25 miles through pedestrianised areas of Milton Keynes, avoiding people and cyclists while travelling at speeds of up to 15mph.

A driver was on hand to take over if necessary, but TSC said the Milton Keynes trial had been a success.

Neil Fulton, the TSC programme director, said, ‘Driverless vehicles are coming to Britain and what we have demonstrated today is a huge step on that journey.’

The two-seater pods used virtual maps of Milton Keynes to navigate the area around the train station and business district in what is known as a ‘last-mile’ service. A computer on board the vehicle senses the surrounding environment with cameras and lidar, a similar system to radar that uses light from a laser, to avoid accidents.

The trial followed 18 months of development by TSC and will pave the way for further research and trials participated in by UK universities and small businesses.

Business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, said, ‘Today’s first public trials of driverless vehicles in our towns is a ground-breaking moment. The global market for autonomous vehicles present huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms and the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.’