Autonomous electric shuttle trial launches at Harwell Campus

An autonomous electric shuttle controlled by 5G and satellite connectivity will transport members of the public around the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, with a second shuttle to be introduced later this year.

The electric shuttles, which do not have a steering wheel, will operate 24/7 to capture data in different light and weather conditions. Harwell-based, Darvin Innovation Group, together with insurer, Aviva, will be trialling the autonomous electric shuttle, with Aviva using the data from the trial to help build a future model of motor insurance.

Created by Navya, the electric vehicle, will be able to pick passengers up, transport them around the campus and drop them off at their destination, all without the involvement of a human driver. A second shuttle is expected to be added in the second year of operation.

The electric vehicles will have a high level of automation – level 4 autonomy, according to SAE International’s levels of driving automation – and they do not have a steering wheel.

Darwin has carefully mapped out the campus and provided the shuttles with all the information they will need to navigate the area. The shuttles will be able to communicate with each other, and will be well equipped with sensors, so they can navigate without obstructing each other and can react to any unexpected obstacles.

Autonomous vehicles offer the potential to dramatically improve road safety and revolutionise the UK’s mobility system. However, as the technology within vehicles evolves and we draw closer to having fully autonomous vehicles on our roads, there will be new risks and vehicle uses that insurers will have to assess when underwriting these vehicles.

Nick Amin, Chief Operating Officer at Aviva, said: “With this trial, we’re able to be there right from the start of the real-life application of autonomous vehicles operating on public roads, which will change not only our relationship with these vehicles but, more fundamentally, how we insure them.”

Daniela Petrovic, Delivery Director at Darwin, said: “For any emergent market to be a success, we need to create an ecosystem of companies who share a vision for innovation and are willing to expand their core competency into something new. Emergent markets are usually found at the intersection of industries, and that is why, for the CAV ecosystem to work, we must gather actors from multiple industries to work together.”

Sergio Budkin, Director of Business Products at O2, said: “It’s encouraging to see the CAV ecosystem grow through this strategic partnership between Darwin Innovation Group and Aviva. We’re also delighted to see companies putting theory into practice by launching trials using CAVs and building upon the work O2 kicked off in October last year through the launch of the Darwin SatCom Lab, which offers companies access to O2-customised autonomous vehicles in order to test proofs of concept.”

Image: courtesy Harwell Campus

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