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Where is the driver? Automated technology launched in Greenwich

Greenwich is one of three urban environments nationwide to test automated vehicles

By Kristian Brunt-Seymour

Government ministers today launched the start of driverless car trials in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project is one of three projects chosen by the Government to deliver demonstrations of automated vehicles in urban environments.

Trials are intended to demonstrate the capability of the automated transport systems in a range of environments, exploring the legal and technical changes required to introduce automated vehicles, as well as the reactions of both pedestrians, drivers and other road users to automated vehicles.

The project includes the testing of a fully driverless vehicle named the Meridian Shuttle, which took its inaugural journey at Greenwich Peninsula attended by Business Secretary Vince Cable, Transport Minister Claire Perry, Royal Borough of Greenwich Council and representatives from science, technology and transport industries. 

Greenwich will be used for all aspects of the trials involving automated vehicles over the next two years – from potential impacts on road layout, car park positions and legislation to looking at how the vehicles could bring significant benefits in regard to road safety and air quality.

The project has also involves a team from Greenwich University, led by Professor Edwin Galea, called the Fire Safety Engineering Group.

Professor Galea and his colleagues are exploring the interactions of pedestrians with automated vehicles, developing a sophisticated understanding of their responses to driverless machines. The research will draw on the team’s multi-award-winning work on understanding the way in which people behave in crisis situations, such as emergency evacuations.

The project is world-renowned computer modelling research with pedestrian safety is at the heart of it, using Greenwich Peninsula as a testing ground to indicate how people behave around moving vehicles.

It involves filming video footage of the interactions with members of the public on streets in Greenwich when they cross in front of vehicles.

In understanding people's behaviour, Professor Galea and his team hope to be in a positiion to advise on the layout of pedestrian vehicles and eventually extend their research to creating a safer environment for pedestrians and vehicles alike.

“I'm a child of the 1950s when sci-fi was huge, so for me this is like something that I used to watch on tv coming to life which is very exciting”, explains Professor Galea, “I never thought I'd live in an age where we have driverless technology.

“Greenwich already has a reputation for science being the centre for Greenwich Mean Time. However, the driverless technology in Greenwich focuses world attention on this area, which can only be excellent news for Greenwich and London as a whole.”

"People tend to forget that driverless vehicles do not break the law, speed or drive under the influence of alcohol, so I predict this technology will reduce the perils of transport with a real possibility of these vehicles being available for purchase in the near future”.

The GATEway project is made up of a consortium led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) with key partners including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the University of Greenwich as well as General Motors, the AA and RAC motoring associations.

Councillor Danny Thorpe, Royal Borough of Greenwich Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport said: “Hosting these trials is both really exciting and really important for us.

“Automated vehicles represent a real transport solution for the future and with the local population set to grow by 40 percent over the next decade or so it’s really good news that we can look at more efficient ways of moving people around.

“With one of the most ambitious programmes of regeneration in Europe, we provide the ideal location for these trials and we can seriously look at how to incorporate this new technology into future transport and infrastructure planning.

To find out more about Professor Ed Galea’s research group at the University of Greenwich and its EXODUS software that models pedestrian analysis, go to: fseg.gre.ac.uk


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