The Automated Vehicles Bill announced in the King’s Speech on 8 November could expedite a rapid roll-out of automated public transport shuttle services, according to the co-founder of a supplier of autonomous vehicle software.
The bill would introduce a new safety framework and laws which could lead to self-driving vehicles being used more widely from 2025.
This month also saw the disclosure that autonomous shuttles built by eVersum and driven by Oxa software would be introduced to Belfast Harbour in 2025. This follows the launch this year of self-driven buses across the Forth Road Bridge and in Oxfordshire via the CAVForth and Mi-Link services respectively.
Professor Paul Newman, President, CTO and co-founder at Oxa, welcomed the government’s announcement last week, saying: “Cities are crying out for new easily deployable and efficient ways to move people around and, where journeys are repeatable, robotic, continuous loops along predetermined routes, the best answer is to introduce self-driving shuttle services.
“Oxa is working with multiple customers and partners on urban self-driving schemes, including the newly announced Belfast Harbour project, which will begin ferrying passengers from 2025.
“I predict autonomous shuttle services will gain traction rapidly now as they can enhance public transport capability, reduce accidents and lower pollution. I’m emboldened further by the UK government recently passing a new Automated Vehicles Bill as it will build public and investor confidence.”
The zero-carbon shuttles destined for Belfast is part of the Harlander Project, which has a total budget of £11 million – part-funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles.
They will carry up to 40 passengers around the Innovation District in Northern Ireland’s Belfast Harbour Estate, as well as tourist attractions such as the Titanic Belfast exhibition.