Passenger trials of the world’s first driverless taxi service will begin in Cardiff this month. The Urban Light Transport system, known as Ultra, is set to become fully operational in the Welsh capital in 2005.
Professor Martin Lowson, chief executive officer of the Bristol University spin-out company Advanced Transport Systems, said this week that the project was running on time and on budget.
‘It has all gone to plan,’ said Lowson. ‘We start passenger trials this month on the test track in Cardiff. Our passengers will be people linked with the project. We want to know how they feel about the experience. We expect its overall development to be completed some time in 2004, with installation taking six to nine months.’
Each ‘taxi’ on the track will carry four people and travel at 25mph. Passengers will request a vehicle at predetermined stops, where they will buy a ticket for their destination. The ticket is then used to program the automatic cab.
The cabs find their way by following a strip of metal or track that is laid on the road surface. Each vehicle has its own internal battery and navigation system.
The developers, which include UK engineering firms Arup and Amec, claim Ultra will consume less energy than buses, cars and trains.
The project has also been funded by the National Endowment for Science and the Arts, the Department of Transport and the European Union.