They say if you’re going to travel, travel in style. What they don’t say is if you’re going to travel, why not pull our your washing machine and give that a go. Either way, the UK is about to get a fleet of driverless cars called the Lutz Pod, and unlike Google’s own smiley automobile, these look fairly.. appliance-y – a new word I’ve just created for this particular piece.
So, the Lutz Pod is the result of the UK government giving the green light to automated cars with an official review which concluded that automated vehicles are safe enough to be tested on public roads, provided a safety driver is present and they comply with normal traffic laws – though I’m unsure a dishwasher with wheels complies with traffic laws..
Jokes aside, this is a massive green light for researchers in the UK that have been interested in driverless technology. Unfortunately Google hasn’t bitten just yet, so the hopes that our roads will be populated by smiley little bubbles is currently just a dream, but other companies have been looking at getting their vehicle on the road. That’s where the Lutz comes in. It’s a small driverless pod with a long, arching windscreen and massive wheel caps making it look like the pod is actually hovering..
The vehicle itself isn’t exactly designed for the road however, so don’t expect to be zooming down the M1 in a Lutz Pod. They’re designed more for pedestrianised spaces, which in a sense goes against the whole driverless cars being tested on UK roads tagline..
Eitherway, it may not have a goofy smile, but it is plastered in Union Jack decals, just in case you forget what country you’re in after your futuristic ride to Tesco.
As for specifications, the Lutz Pod can carry two passengers for up to 40 miles, or around six hours on a single charge. It also has a top speed of 15mph so don’t expect to be hitting 88 mph and blasting into the future just yet. Under the hood is where it packs most of it’s impressive gear with twin cameras and LIDAR sensors are fitted on the front, alongside a further two cameras and a single LIDAR on the back. There’s also an additional two cameras on either side, which combine to give the vehicle a detailed 360-degree picture of its surroundings.
In London today a prototype of the vehicle was shown, but its creators Transport Systems Catapult and the RDM Group, say the first production models won’t be completed until June. The vehicles will then be trialled in Milton Keynes where the pair and anyone involved in the project will bag two records; the first UK driverless pod and the first autonomous vehicle to be used in a UK public area.
The UK government also awarded funding to a couple of other researchers who also plan to make driverless and autonomous vehicles so over the next few years be prepared to see a handful of empty cars driving around the roads picking up passengers when the first driverless taxi service hits the UK shores.