The town of Milton Keynes, located about 50 miles north of London, is starting to experiment with what could be the future of transportation – driverless cars. Brian Matthews is head of Milton Keynes transport innovation. He says the town has a growing demand for an efficient way to get around.

Matthews: “We have forecast here in Milton Keynes that travel demand will increase by around 60 percent over the next 20 years.”

Officials decided a tram or monorail system would be too expensive and not well suited to the town’s layout. So they needed a more innovative approach. They found it. Milton Keynes is now testing battery-operated driverless pods. These two-seater vehicles use lasers and cameras to navigate on the sidewalks.

Matthews: “Having them operate on footways gives the opportunities for door-to-door journeys to take place between business and business, retail outlet shop and other facilities.”

Matthews says the pods use space more efficiently and make better use of travel routes.

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Matthews: “We expect that we will reduce congestion, make the load across the network better and therefore improve on air quality.”

If testing goes well, the town plans to provide up to forty of these pods for public use within two years.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Colleen Pellissier.
Photo source: NextCity.org video.

More Resources
U.K. city is designing a future of fewer cars – by focusing on its roads
British cities to become testbeds for driverless cars
Three consortia projects selected for road trials of driverless vehicles in Greenwich, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Bristol

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...