London’s Gatwick Airport has partnered with autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica to trial autonomous vehicles that can shuttle its employees around the airfield.
The trial will commence this year, during which the electric-powered self-driving vehicles will transport workers on the airfield.
If the trial proves a success, it may lead to ‘an Uber-like service’ where employees will take a vehicle when they travel across the airfield.
Gatwick Airport chief information officer Cathal Corcoran said: “This trial is just the start and much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the beginning of the 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, emissions and associated costs.”
Additionally, the self-driving vehicles can be used for other works at the airport, such as aircraft pushback tugs, passenger load bridges, baggage tugs and transportation buses.
Oxbotica CEO Dr Graeme Smith said: “Airports offer an incredibly interesting domain for our autonomous driving software. There is a huge diversity of vehicles, each with a very specific mission.
“The challenge of choreographing all of the activity around an individual plane, or in support of airport operations is immense and we look forward to working closely with Gatwick on this initial pilot that will demonstrate our self-driving technology carrying staff around the airfield.”
The trial will not involve any passengers or aircraft and will be limited to airside roads between the airport’s North and South terminals.
Data collected from the Gatwick pilot study will be used in dialogue with the UK Department of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority and others.
Oxbotica develops software that allows vehicles to run autonomously without using GPS or any other technology outside the vehicle.