A trial of electric-powered autonomous vehicles will see workers at London Gatwick Airport shuttled between popular locations on the airfield this summer.
The trial will be run in partnership with Oxbotica, which develops software that enables vehicles to run autonomously without reliance on GPS or any other technology outside the vehicle. Oxbotica vehicles are also currently involved in other trials on UK roads and the company is currently developing a fleet of autonomous vehicles that will soon be running between Oxford and London.
The trial is thought to be the first of its kind for any airport in the world and could lead to airfield transportation needs being met from a much smaller pool of autonomous vehicles, reducing the need for such large vehicle fleets, reducing emissions and saving on costs. No passengers or aircraft will be involved in this trail, which will be limited to airside roads between the airport’s North and South terminals.
Cathal Corcoran, chief information officer at Gatwick Airport, said, “If this trial proves successful then in the future we could have an Uber-like service operating across the airfield which staff can hail as and when they need to travel.
“This trial is just the start and much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the start of widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world. The new technology is a more efficient way to manage vehicles and could lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles required, their associated costs and harmful emissions.”
Data collected from the Gatwick pilot study will determine whether autonomous vehicles can work safely on an airfield.
Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, added, “Airports offer an incredibly interesting domain for our autonomous driving software. There is a huge diversity of vehicles, each with a very specific mission.
“The challenge of choreographing all of the activity around an individual plane, or in support of airport operations is immense and we look forward to working closely with Gatwick on this initial pilot that will demonstrate our self-driving technology carrying staff around the airfield.”