Cllrs Danny Thorpe, Denise Scott-McDonald, Leo Fletcher and Stephen Brain were some of the first people to take a ride in a driverless car on-road in Royal Greenwich.

Published: Monday, 16th August 2021

For the first time ever in the UK, members of the public have been invited to take an on-road ride in a driverless car.

Autonomous, self-driving cars are being tested in Royal Greenwich until 18 August 2021, as part of a ground-breaking multi-city trial.  

The organisation behind the trials, Project Endeavour, has been developing and testing driverless vehicles since 2019 and has already run successful trials in Oxford and Birmingham.

Endeavour has been working closely with DG Cities, the Council’s in-house team created to lead the borough’s work on city innovation, to invite members of the public to take rides on public roads for the first time ever, with more than 100 members of the public scheduled to take part. The event also offers a virtual reality experience to explore what it’s like to be in an AV as it moves through a typical urban setting.

The Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Councillor Danny Thorpe, was one of the first people to take an on-road ride last week. Cllr Thorpe said: “It’s incredible to see just how far the technology has come since I last took a ride several years ago, when the vehicles were first trialled at the O2. It’s so exciting that Royal Greenwich has played such an integral part of these trials. To date, autonomous vehicles have been seen as something for the distant future. But we have the technology needed to change the future of mobility and make driverless cars a reality.”  

A fleet of six Ford Mondeo vehicles have been deployed during the demonstration to replicate how an autonomous mobility service may operate in an urban environment. The vehicles, integrated with a world-leading autonomy software platform, are completing a five-mile urban route around Royal Greenwich’s busy streets, giving partners the opportunity to model the complex and busy network and exposing the vehicle to varied traffic and weather conditions.

Public engagement has been a key focus of the project, in order to shape the future of mobility services and make sure that they benefit everyone. Ahead of the trials, the UK public said that in-vehicle safety and the safety record of the service provider were the top two most important considerations when choosing future mobility providers, ranking ahead of cost, cleanliness, and availability. Post-trial data will be studied to understand if experiencing the technology improves the acceptance of AVs.

Transport planners and other local authorities are also using the trials to understand how autonomy can fill mobility gaps in urban and rural settings, and how to support communities in accessing the new technology while playing a role in the long-term sustainability of cities.  

Trevor Dorling, Managing Director of DG Cities, said: “The London demonstration concludes the on-road trials phase of Project Endeavour. The results of the project will allow the project partners to further advance the deployment of AV services safely and at scale, addressing some of the major transport challenges cities face today and in the future.

“We are also excited that we are able to offer the public the opportunity to ride in one of the Project Endeavour autonomous vehicles during our trials in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Their feedback will give us valuable insights on how we need to keep adapting both the technology and its deployment in cities in years to come.”