Are Driverless Vehicles En-Route to the Lake District?
Vehicle congestion around Grizedale and Buttermere could potentially reach severe levels, if the Lake District continues to enjoy increases in tourism following its successful World Heritage bid... but futuristic driverless pods could be the answer.
A feasibility study is underway to determine whether self-controlling electric vehicles could provide a realistic solution to increasing conerns over how the estimated 18 million annual visitors to the region can get around.
The 'pods,' which are also in use or under trial at Manchester airport and London's O2 arena, are capable of approximately 100km travel at up tp 25mph from a single charge. The vehicles use an array of sensors, and feature reactionary braking and safety systems allowing them to stop more quickly and safely than human drivers are capable of. Passengers are also able to contact the pod's control cetnre if there is an emergency.
Richard Leafe is the chief executive of the Lake District National Park. He said of the scheme: "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. 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 to sustainable travel.”
The 'pods' are already in functional use at London Heathrow Terminal 5 with further airport trials underway and more expected. Whether or not they will be a viable or suitable option for the Lake District could be determined shortly after the study concludes just this June. In the meantime, Westfield Technology Group, from Dudley, who manufacture the vehicles feel that feedback from locals and visitors could be crucial to determine their success, or indeed where they could be of most use.
The group's chief executive, Julian Turner, said: "Through this project we're identifying possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs. We're particularly looking forward to hearing feedback from the local residents and visitors, as their input into how services can help meet their needs will be invaluable when planning possible routes for the pod to run in this area"
What do you think of the pods, and could you see yourself exploring the Lakes in a driverless vehicle?