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May 14, 2018

Driverless pods could be used to ferry tourists around a U.K. national park

by John_A

Anyone who has ever visited England’s Lake District in the height of summer will know from bitter experience how the roads can become clogged with cars as travelers from around the world explore one of the country’s most beautiful national parks.

The operator of the park recently tested an electric-powered driverless pod as part of a pilot program to gain public feedback on how it feels to use the technology. The aim is to explore the possibility of integrating the autonomous pods in the local transportation system to help cut pollution and ease congestion on the park’s busy roads.

Developed by Westfield Technology Group, the diminutive vehicle uses sensors and cameras to detect road conditions and obstacles as it transports up to four people along designated routes.

It’s hoped the pods could be useful for last-mile journeys inside the park, for example, from the station to the hotel, or from the hotel to the top of a valley to start a hike.

“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,” Richard Leafe, chief executive at the Lake District National Park, said in a release.

Leafe added: “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 for 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.”

Julian Turner, boss of Westfield Technology Group, said his firm was using the Lake District project to identify “possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs.” He added that the collaborative effort “will allow us to create a sustainable and accessible transport mode for journeys in the future.”

The feasibility study will run until June with the results helping the park to decide if this type of transport would suit the Lake District and be a good fit for those who live and visit there.

Similarly designed pods are already transporting passengers around Heathrow Airport, and have also been tested in parts of London, but it seems this is the first time the vehicle has been taken onto roads in the countryside.

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