The LUTZ driverless vehicle pod
Russ Cockburn

Member Article

RDM Group unveils the UK’s first driverless pod

A Coventry-based advanced manufacturing specialist will have the eyes of the world on it today when it unveils a major UK transport breakthrough.

RDM Group, which employs 43 people at its engineering centre in the City, will showcase a prototype of the driverless pod that will be the first autonomous vehicle used in public areas when it takes to the pavements of Milton Keynes later this year.

The ‘LUTZ’ Pathfinder pod was revealed at a cross-Government launch event by Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s innovation centre for intelligent transport systems.

Electric powered, the vehicle can seat two people, will travel at a maximum speed of 15mph and boasts a range of 40 miles. It uses sensor and navigation technology provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.

The build of the first prototype has taken just 10 months to complete and has involved eight specialist engineers at RDM. It is anticipated that three pods will be manufactured ready for trials in June.

“We are thrilled to be part of such a groundbreaking project that has the potential to prove that driverless vehicles can be used safely and effectively on our pavements and roads,” explained David Keene, chief executive officer at RDM Group.

“It has been challenging and involved pretty much every member of staff at one time or another.”

He continued: “However, pushing the boundaries of innovation is what we do best and hopefully LUTZ puts us in an ideal position to win other autonomous vehicle work that could lead to new jobs and even greater expansion.”

The driverless pods are being built at RDM’s £400,000 advanced engineering centre in the heart of Coventry.

Naturally, safety is the number one factor and this is reflected in the implementation of 19 different types of sensors, cameras, lasers, radars and LIDARs.

The futuristic styling is dominated by a balanced roofline, wheels pushed back to the extremities of the chassis and doors that run virtually the entire side of the vehicle.

It is split into two colours, the main body being satin black and various body panels picked out in gloss white, inspired by the iconic space shuttle.

David, who started the business 22 years ago, continued: “We’ve invested heavily in ensuring we have the necessary skills in design, electronics and niche vehicle development to make LUTZ a success.

“This contract will help us pass £10m in annual sales this year and has the potential to create a further five high value engineering jobs.

“More importantly, we believe we’ve created a robust and visually exciting prototype that will showcase the best of British design and engineering.”

The Transport Systems Catapult is the project lead for the LUTZ Pathfinder programme and also a partner in the £20million twin-city UK Autodrive project announced by the Chancellor in the 2014 Autumn Statement.

UK Autodrive will build on the success of the initial programme, with the design, performance and learning from early tests used to scale this up to create a full city demonstrator that will eventually see public trials – involving 40 driverless pods - in Coventry and Milton Keynes.

Steve Yianni, chief executive of the Transport Systems Catapult, concluded:

“Technology such as driverless vehicles, intelligent phone apps, and social media, will transform how we travel in the future – making journeys faster, easier, and more connected.”

“Through the LUTZ Pathfinder programme, the Transport Systems Catapult has pioneered the introduction of driverless pods in Milton Keynes and the first ever tests in the UK will take place in 2015 in a controlled public environment. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and could become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”

George Gillespie, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP board director and the chief executive of MIRA, said: “This project is very good news for RDM and also for the Coventry and Warwickshire area as it underlines our capability in the intelligent mobility field.

“We have a great number of companies working in intelligent mobility and that will – through the UK Autodrive project – see driverless cars trialled on roads of Coventry as well as other cities across the country.

“We are working with partners, including RDM, on that project and much of the research and development on a national scale is happening here in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russ Cockburn .

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