Futuristic ‘driverless capsules’ carry passengers around a mall
Futuristic ‘driverless capsules’ are transporting passengers around a shopping center near Bristol as part of a test that could see electric vehicles deployed throughout the United Kingdom.
- British-made electric vehicles have only been tested on private roads so far
- So far they have only traveled at 5 mph because they do not operate on public roads
- Researchers hope to launch a complete test of the capsules on public roads later in 2020
- The current test will see how well they navigate around pedestrians, bicycles, mobility scooters and other everyday obstacles.
Futuristic ‘driverless capsules’ are transporting passengers around a shopping center near Bristol as part of a test that could see them deployed throughout the United Kingdom.
The test is in charge of the infrastructure company AECOM, which says if success could lead to a complete ‘open road’ test later in the year.
They are testing the vehicles at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, just north of Bristol, to see how it crosses major obstacles every day.
The British manufactured electric vehicles that operate completely autonomously, so the team wanted to test them in an area with pedestrians, scooters, bicycles and animals.
This is the first test of the future transport solution that a ‘supervisor’ will not have to monitor the controls while the passengers are inside the mobile capsule.
For the test, they will drive between the mall and its parking lot, giving people a ‘proof’ of what it is to travel on the pod, says AECOM.
They use a mix of sensors, radar and artificial intelligence to navigate crowded areas and have already been tested in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
However, this is the first test that will not include a backup controller within the pod, unlike the London trial where a ‘supervisor’ monitored the controls.
Electric vehicles have only been tested on private roads so far, which means they still have to travel more than 5 mph despite being able to go faster.
“Autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve the customer experience,” says the group behind the test on their website.
It could remodel entire shopping centers by replacing parking lots with delivery and collection areas for capsules leaving the center, or for cars that leave passengers who then enter a capsule into stores.
“The research project will expand UK knowledge about the impact of connected and autonomous vehicles and help inform the future direction of their development and implementation,” says the team.
For the test, the capsule will travel between the parking lot and the mall. Researchers say the capsules could see delivery points for capsules that replace parking areas in future shopping areas.
The Capri consortium is a group of 17 companies and organizations that work together to create a ‘complete autonomous pod solution’.
The groups involved include airports, universities, councils and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where the first major test took place.
Capri received £ 35 million for the Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, the configuration of the government department to support driverless transport technologies.
The hope is that one day you can call for a pod to appear and take you somewhere, similar to an Uber.
There will be another final test at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with a fleet of four capsules capable of going from public roads to pedestrian areas.
The trial is underway at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway until Sunday, January 26.
HOW DO AUTOMATIC DRIVING CARS “SEE”?
Autonomous cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and ‘LiDAR’ units with depth sensors to recognize the world around them.
However, others use visible light cameras that capture images of roads and streets.
They are trained with a large amount of information and vast databases of hundreds of thousands of clips that are processed using artificial intelligence to accurately identify people, signs and hazards.
In the LiDAR (light and range detection) scan, which is used by Waymo, one or more lasers send short pulses, which are recovered when they hit an obstacle.
These sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas for information, acting as the “eyes” of the car.
While the units provide depth information, their low resolution makes it difficult to detect small and distant objects without the help of a normal camera connected to it in real time.
In November last year, Apple revealed details of its driverless car system that uses lasers to detect pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.
Apple researchers said they were able to get “very encouraging results” by detecting pedestrians and cyclists with only LiDAR data.
They also wrote that they could overcome other approaches to detect three-dimensional objects that only use LiDAR.
Other autonomous cars generally depend on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers.
An example is Volvo’s driverless cars that depend on around 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.
A computer network processes information that, together with GPS, generates a real-time map of mobile and stationary objects in the environment.
Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects near the vehicle and support autonomous driving at low speeds.
A wave radar and a camera placed on the windshield reads the road signs and the curvature of the road and can detect objects on the road, such as other road users.
Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.
Two long-range radars are used in the bumper to detect fast-moving vehicles that approach from far away, which is useful on highways.
Four cameras, two in the rearview mirrors, one on the grill and one on the rear bumper, monitor objects very close to the vehicle and the lane markings.