Southampton Airport is to trial an autonomous bus as part of a research project that could help pave the way for the wider use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) across the UK.

The trial, which is being run by UK-based Driverless vehicle company Conigital and part-funded by the European digital innovation organisation EIT Digital, will see the driverless bus travel the same 2km route between the airport’s long stay car park and terminal over a 2 week period.

The connected and autonomous bus will be powered by ConiCAVTM, their ‘lift and shift’ Driverless Vehicle platform and a driver will be present throughout the journey to take control if needed. The trial, which started on 26th October, will allow data to be analysed in real-time, real-world surroundings to be assessed and critical decisions made in an instant. The bus will not be used by members of the public.

Steve Szalay, operations director at Southampton Airport, said: “This is a very exciting project and one which demonstrates our commitment to embracing innovation to help enhance the customer experience. In the future, this technology would allow our drivers to spend more time focusing on the needs of our customers, ensuring they receive a more efficient service.  The main aim of the trial is to test how the driverless bus adapts to an operating road network, however, there is huge potential to apply this technology to other areas of the airport, such as supporting baggage handling.”

Don Dhaliwal, CEO & Founder of Conigital, added: “This trial will mark the start of an exciting journey for the UK, where we’ll see more autonomous vehicles become available to the public and infrastructure in place to support them. Our Driverless vehicle Platform allows the vehicle to react to changing conditions and optimises its performance accordingly, creating a better, safer and more seamless journey. Autonomous vehicles operating as an optimised fleet are the future of mobility, and this project demonstrates how they can be efficiently used in a public environment and will define the standards moving forward.”

Southampton Airport is part of AGS Airports Ltd which also owns Aberdeen International and Glasgow airports. In October 2019, Glasgow became the first UK airport to introduce a fleet of zero-emission electric buses to its car park operation. Moving to a full-electric bus operation cut the carbon emissions associated with passenger travel to and from the airport’s car park from 143 tonnes per year to zero.

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