Gatwick airport to use driverless vehicles to transport staff

Gatwick airport to use driverless vehicles to transport staff

Plans for the “world’s first” autonomous shuttle service could see passengers being taken to aircraft at Gatwick by driverless vehicles.

A six-month trial of the vehicles this summer is planned as part of efforts to cut costs, improve safety and make airside operations more efficient.

The project will initially focus on taking workers between the north and south terminals and no passengers or aircraft will be involved.

Gatwick, which handles almost 45 million passengers a year, said that if the trial were successful it could be scaled up to cover passenger buses, baggage tugs and pushback tugs that steer aircraft away from terminals.

The trial, which will be run by Oxford-based software firm Oxbotica, is believed to be the first of its kind.

It follows the announcement that the government is to revise its guidance on autonomous vehicles so that they can be tested without a safety driver. Ministers have said that the vehicles could be in widespread commercial use by 2021.

Heathrow already uses a fleet of driverless pods on a fixed network between a car park and Terminal 5.

Gatwick chief information officer Cathal Corcoran said: “If this trial proves successful, we could have an Uber-like service operating across the airfield which staff can hail when they need to travel.

“Much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the start of widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world.

“The new technology is a more efficient way to manage vehicles and could lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles required, their associated costs and harmful emissions.”

About 300 vehicles currently in use at Gatwick could become autonomous.

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