Midland engineers have made a major breakthrough after a trailblazing driverless vehicle went on show.
The groundbreaking pods will be tested on public roads later this year after being given the green light.
The autonomous vehicles have been developed by RDM Group and after a major review confirmed the UK is uniquely positioned to develop driverless car technology, it means the eyes of the world are on the Coventry firm.
Electric powered, the vehicle can seat two people, will travel at a maximum speed of 15mph and boasts a range of 40 miles. It uses sensor and navigation technology provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.
Experts say the intelligent transport systems, called Lutz Pathfinder pods, have potential for reducing accidents and making traffic flow more smoothly.
David Keene, chief executive officer at RDM Group, said: “It has been challenging and involved pretty much every member of staff at one time or another.
“However, pushing the boundaries of innovation is what we do best and hopefully Lutz puts us in an ideal position to win other autonomous vehicle work that could lead to new jobs and even greater expansion.”
The build of the first prototype has taken just 10 months to complete and has involved eight specialist engineers at RDM. It is anticipated that three pods will be manufactured ready for trials in June.
Transport Minister Claire Perry said the UK’s regulatory environment now sets it apart as a premium location for developing new technology, with tremendous potential for reducing accidents and making traffic flow more smoothly.
She added: “Driverless cars are the future. I want Britain to be at the forefront of this exciting new development, to embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.
“These are still early days but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable joined Ms Perry in Greenwich, home to one of the projects benefiting from £19 million government funding for driverless cars trials.
Mr Cable said: “The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology – from the all-electric cars built in Sunderland, to the formula one expertise in the Midlands. It’s important for jobs, growth and society that we keep at the forefront of innovation, that’s why I launched a competition to research and develop driverless cars. The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world-leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a £900 billion industry by 2025.
“The government’s industrial strategy is backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength, we are giving business the confidence to invest over the long term and developing cutting-edge technology that will create high skilled jobs.”