Autonomous shuttle trials begin in Cambridge

Cambridge is hosting the first UK trials of autonomous shuttle services that will operate on a main road surrounded by cars, lorries, vans, bikes and pedestrians.

Autonomous shuttle
Aurrigo Auto-Shuttle (Image: Aurrigo)

Starting today (May 27, 2021) three Aurrigo autonomous shuttles will take passengers from the Madingley Road Park and Ride site to and around Cambridge University’s West Campus.

The trial is part of an Innovate UK and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV)-backed project, led by Aurrigo with Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and Smart Cambridge.

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It is anticipated that passengers recruited for the project will be able to use an Aurrigo App that will allow them to be picked-up at locations across the two-mile route.

“We’ve completed successful trials in city centres, in retirement complexes and at major golf tournaments, but this is the first time these vehicles will be sharing the route with everyday traffic,” said David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo. “The shuttles…will run autonomously for the majority of the route using our in-house developed Auto-Stack driving software and the latest LIDAR and camera technology to identify potential hazards as they move around.”

With a range of over 120 miles, the Aurrigo Auto-Shuttle is said to be the world’s first conventionally driven electric and autonomous purpose-built vehicle, with its lightweight composite frame powered by a 22kW electric motor.

The autonomous shuttle senses and moves around its environment with little or no operator input.

An array of sensors, laser scanners and cameras help the vehicle build a map of how it moves through its environment. During a journey, the same sensors inform the vehicle of where it is on that map, enabling fully autonomously operations within its surroundings.

Safety operators will be on board the vehicles during the project trials and are able to regain manual control of the vehicle at any time.

The GCP and Smart Cambridge-led trials will support research into potential driverless shuttle services to link the city’s other research campuses with the rail stations and Park & Ride sites. They will also further explore how smart technology can be used to cut congestion and improve public transport.

Claire Ruskin, director of Cambridge Network and business representative on the GCP Executive Board, said: “These shuttles could be used on demand all day and night, every day of the year – which is unaffordable with our existing public transport.

“They are flexible and make good use of resources without needing significant infrastructure. As employment around Cambridge is 24/7 for many organisations – including our hospitals, emergency services, and many of our labs – we have been anticipating this new technology to see how real operation will help people get around.”