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Autonomous shuttle debuts at Birmingham Airport

Posted on 22 Mar 2022 and read 1786 times
Autonomous shuttle debuts at Birmingham AirportFrom left: Leader of Solihull Council Ian Courts, Birmingham Airport chief executive Nick Barton and Henriette Breukelaar from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP

A driverless shuttle, owned by Solihull Council and designed and built in Coventry, has made its debut in the grounds of a UK airport for the first time this week.

Aurrigo which employs over 70 people at its Advanced Engineering Centre, will deploy its 10-seater Auto-Shuttle alongside live traffic on the roads of Birmingham Airport. The company has mapped out a route that will initially transport staff with the potential for the trial to be extended to passengers later this month.

The zero-emissions autonomous shuttle uses a suite of sensors, including LiDAR, to understand its surroundings and move safely around its environment. For the purpose of testing, and in line with current legislation, a safety operator will be on-board at all times, while the shuttle can also be manually driven with conventional controls to give the ultimate in operational flexibility.

This latest project is a Solihull Council-led initiative to test how Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) might be integrated into the borough’s transport network in the future and follows a successful trial at the NEC, Birmingham last year.

Miles Garner, sales and marketing director at Aurrigo, said: “We are delighted to be working with Solihull Council again to deliver another milestone, with Birmingham Airport becoming the first-ever airport to test our autonomous shuttles with passengers on their roads.

“Aviation is a major opportunity for Aurrigo, with a genuine desire to find new technologies that can improve the passenger experience. This could be through our driverless shuttles, our Auto-Sim modelling software, or it could be through our Auto-Dolly cargo/luggage dolly that can replace the traditional tugs that are commonplace in airports all over the world.”

Autonomous technology deployment

He continued: “We are currently working on projects at Changi Airport in Singapore and Gerald R. Ford International in North America, putting the UK on the global map for autonomous technology deployment.”

Nick Barton, Birmingham Airport chief executive, said: “Autonomous technology promises enormous benefits to airports and the service companies that support them, with the potential to transform the way we work and improve efficiency and safety for passengers, staff and other airport users.

“We are excited to be working with Solihull Council on this trial, which will provide us with invaluable insight into how we can start to safely incorporate CAVs into our vehicle fleet. This trial of fully electric vehicles, and testing their capabilities on site, is making sure we are working towards our ‘net zero’ carbon target by 2033.”

Aurrigo has recently created headlines in the aviation sector after using its Auto-Sim technology to help Changi Airport in Singapore with development work on a new terminal. The company, which was founded by brothers David and Graham Keene nearly 30 years ago, has also used its in-house software, technology and engineering expertise to develop the Auto-Dolly, a new autonomous luggage and cargo system that has the potential to deliver 60% carbon savings for airports.

It is anticipated that the ‘digital twin’ modelling work could prove the business case for these dollies to replace conventional diesel-powered luggage and cargo tractors and trailers by up to two-thirds.

Councillor Ian Courts said: “CAV technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas as well as transport goods. I am pleased that we are the first Council in the country to purchase our very own zero-emission, road-legal, shared use CAV and we are keen to put it to use.”

He concluded: “This project is all about looking at how we can practically and safely start to incorporate autonomous vehicles into our future transport infrastructure. Already one of the best-connected destinations in the UK and Europe, Birmingham Airport is the perfect place to trial our shuttle providing us with a busy but controlled environment in which to gain further real-world operating experience.”