An iconic Northumberland venue that has hosted Harry Potter and The Transformers films was again in the spotlight this weekend when it held a major UK first.
Aurrigo, a world leader in autonomous technology, started a four-day trial of its self-driving vehicles at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Gardens on Saturday, as part of a major new study led by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and insight and strategy specialists BritainThinks.
Local residents enjoyed the opportunity to attend ‘The Great Self Driving Exploration’ on the 19th and 20th June, where they took a closer look at self-driving vehicles, asked questions and even enjoyed a ride.
These trials are the first time that self-driving vehicles have been tested in rural communities and saw the firm’s Auto-Pod carry up to two passengers on a shared 500 metre path that connects the Alnwick Gardens to Alnwick Castle.
Aurrigo’s Auto-Shuttle, which can hold up to six people for this trial, was also operating, taking people from the bus station to the castle in a 1.2km route that was shared with live traffic, including cars, bikes and pedestrians.
Both self-driving vehicles use a suite of sensors to understand their surroundings and are electric-powered.
“It’s great to be showcasing our technology in such a beautiful location and the feedback we have received will be important in the future development of self-driving vehicles,” explained Ricky Raines, Operations Manager at Aurrigo.
“We believe these types of first and last mile transport is key to supporting people with mobility issues and this Exploration event will be extremely useful in helping understand how individuals in rural locations feel about self-driving technology and any changes that can be made to enhance the user experience.”
Mark Brassell, Director of The Alnwick Garden, added his support: “Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden are thrilled to be hosting The Great Self Driving Exploration, giving local people the opportunity to experience the latest innovations in self-driving vehicles.
“The event offered a fantastic opportunity for people to trial the vehicles themselves and learn more about the future of self-driving vehicles and their potential role in enhancing current transport provisions – delivering safer and more accessible transport in the process.”
Aurrigo, which is currently completing other passenger trials in the UK, used its appearance at Alnwick Castle to reveal its Auto-Deliver for the first time.
This static display gave people the chance to look around the self-driving ‘grocery delivery’ vehicle that could change the way we receive essential items to our doors.
The way it has been designed means organisations can complete multi-drops using the power of password/QR protected compartments, ideal for serving housing estates, University campuses or business parks.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison commented: “Self-driving technology has the potential to reform the way we get from A to B, making our future journeys easier, more environmentally friendly and, crucially, safer.
“I’m committed to ensuring this innovation improves road safety and, as we work to safely introduce self-driving vehicles to our roads in the coming years, it’s key the public is closely involved in the journey. I hope these demonstrations provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about the technology and experience the cutting-edge innovation first-hand.”
Lucy Farrow, Associate Partner at BritainThinks, concluded: “The BritainThinks team are delighted to be delivering this innovative research project in partnership with CCAV, UCL and Aurrigo. It offers a unique opportunity to understand not just what people think of self-driving vehicles as they are now, but also their hopes and expectations for the future.
“This will provide crucial insight to government and industry to support the development of self-driving technology that benefits everyone across the UK.”