Lake District trials futuristic driverless vehicles in bid to tackle congestion
The Lake District is trialling driverless pods for visitors And although there’s no driver, passengers can speak to the vehicles’ control centre in case of an emergency.One charge is enough for around 100km of travel and the vehicles, made by Dudley-based Westfield, have a top speed of 25mph.The so-called “pods” are also in use or being trialled at Birmingham and Manchester airports and at O2 Arena In London. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park said: “We’re constantly looking at new ways to balance the needs and enjoyment of people as they visit and move around the Lake District, whilst being mindful of the impact on the environment.”Driverless pods are a really interesting concept and while this is not necessarily something that will be seen on the Lake District streets soon, it’s vital we explore a range of solutions to sustainable travel.”Julian Turner, Westfield Technology Group chief executive said: “Through this project we’re identifying possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs.”We’re particularly looking forward to hearing feedback from the local residents and visitors, as their input into how services can help meet their needs will be invaluable when planning possible routes for the pod to run in this area”The outcomes of the feasibility study, which is due to end in June, will help the authorities decide whether the driverless transport is suitable in the Lake District and which routes would be viable.But it was met with scepticism by many locals.Many suggested that the money should be ploughed into much-needed footpath restoration, current infrastructure and public transport first while others scoffed at the idea that they could survive the area’s bumpy, narrow lanes. The roads in the Lake District are famed for being clogged with sheep and walkers.But the beautiful rolling scenery, could soon be punctuated with the rather more futuristic driverless “pods”.The state-of-the-art self-driving vehicles are being trialled as a potential solution to gridlock near Grisedale or a bottleneck at Buttermere.The UNESCO World Heritage Site has launched a feasibility study examining how the 18 million visitors who descend on the area each year will get around in the future.The electric vehicle, which are already ferrying passengers at Heathrow Terminal 5, use cutting edge technology, including sensors to detect road conditions and obstacles in the road, to transport people in a safe and environmentally friendly way.The on-board computers can ensure the vehicle brakes faster and anticipates changes in road conditions that the human eye could not.