Matthew Neville

Alnwick Castle and Gardens host self-driving car trial in “major UK first”

An iconic Northumberland venue that has hosted Harry Potter and The Transformers films was again in the spotlight this weekend when it held a “major UK first”.

Autonomous technology specialist Aurrigo started a four-day trial of its self-driving vehicles at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Gardens on Saturday, as part of a new study led by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and insight and strategy specialists BritainThinks.

Local residents enjoyed the opportunity to attend ‘The Great Self Driving Exploration’ on June 19 and 20, where they took a closer look at self-driving vehicles, asked questions and even enjoyed a ride.

These trials are the first time that self-driving vehicles have been tested in rural communities and saw the firm’s Auto-Pod carry up to two passengers on a shared 500 metre path that connects the Alnwick Gardens to Alnwick Castle.

Aurrigo’s Auto-Shuttle, which can hold up to six people for this trial, was also operating, taking people from the bus station to the castle in a 1.2km route that was shared with live traffic, including cars, bikes and pedestrians. Both self-driving vehicles use a suite of sensors to understand their surroundings and are electric-powered.

Ricky Raines, operations manager at Aurrigo, explained: “It’s great to be showcasing our technology in such a beautiful location and the feedback we have received will be important in the future development of self-driving vehicles.

“We believe these types of first and last mile transport is key to supporting people with mobility issues and this Exploration event will be extremely useful in helping understand how individuals in rural locations feel about self-driving technology and any changes that can be made to enhance the user experience.”

Mark Brassell, director of The Alnwick Garden, added his support: “Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden are thrilled to be hosting The Great Self Driving Exploration, giving local people the opportunity to experience the latest innovations in self-driving vehicles.

“The event offered a fantastic opportunity for people to trial the vehicles themselves and learn more about the future of self-driving vehicles and their potential role in enhancing current transport provisions - delivering safer and more accessible transport in the process.”

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