It’s hoped that the pods will improve public transport links in Greenwich / GATEway Project

Oxbotica, which developed the technology, wants to gauge how the public reacts to its autonomous pods

Driverless pods have started started carrying members of the public around in North Greenwich, London, as part of the GATEway Project.

The autonomous vehicles aren’t fitted with a steering wheel or a brake pedal, and instead use a collection of five cameras and three lasers to detect and avoid obstacles on a two-mile route near the O2.

They can see up to 100m ahead and are capable of performing an emergency stop if necessary, though they have a top speed of just 10mph. 

The prototype pods being used in Greenwich can carry four passengers at a time, but each of them will have a trained person on board during the three-week trial. 

Unfortunately, only around 100 people will get the chance to try out the vehicles, with 5,000 having applied to take part in the trial.

Oxbotica, which developed the technology, wants to gauge how the public reacts to driverless vehicles.

“This needs to be like any other form of transportation,” said Dr Graeme Smith, the chief executive of Oxbotica. “It shouldn't be a white-knuckle ride for passengers. We know we've got the software right when the journeys are unremarkable.

“It's been designed to be safe and fail-safe specifically in a pedestrianised environment. We look out for pedestrians, cyclists, cats and dogs.”

It’s hoped that the pods will improve public transport links in Greenwich, and other areas if feedback proves positive enough to warrant a wider rollout in 2019. 

Technology giants including Tesla and Uber are currently testing driverless vehicles in various states in the US, but smaller-scale trials are underway in the UK, with the Lutz Pathfinder having hit roads in Milton Keynes last year. 

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