A self-driving vehicle is being exhibited at Brockhole on Windermere this week to gain public feedback, as the Lake District considers autonomous vehicles as a sustainable transport solution.
The Lake District National Park is the first National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site to take part in such a feasibility study with Midlands-based manufacturer Westfield Technology Group. Innovate UK is funding the study.
The national park authority is looking to explore new technologies which will allow people to access the Lakes in an environmentally sustainable way, and automated pods are being trialled as a potential solution.
The pods use sensors to detect road conditions and obstacles in the road, to transport people in a safe and environmentally friendly way. The Westfield POD is billed as the UK’s first fully autonomous vehicle for first mile–last mile transportation and has been developed in conjunction with Heathrow Airport.
The original system has now completed over 5m km in a live commercial environment serving Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 POD Parking.
Richard Leafe, chief executive at the Lake District National Park said: “We’re constantly looking at new ways to balance the needs and enjoyment of people as they visit and move around the Lake District, whilst being mindful of the impact on the environment.
“Driverless pods are a really interesting concept and while this is not necessarily something that will be seen on the Lake District streets soon, it’s vital we explore a range of solutions to sustainable travel.
“We’re excited to see the pods in action this week and to hear from the public on whether they would use this type of transport in the Lake District.”
A pod will be demonstrated at Brockhole today and tomorrow, while visitors will be asked to share their thoughts on whether they feel it will be effective in the Lake District.
Julian Turner, Westfield Technology Group chief executive said: “We’re really excited to be trialling the pods in the Lake District, which is such a popular tourist destination in the UK.
“Through this project we’re identifying possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs. This collaborative effort will allow us to creative a sustainable and accessible transport mode for journeys in the future”
The full feasibility study is due to last until June.