EU-funded project launches driverless taxis

January 21, 2002

Brussels, 18 January 2002

An innovative type of driverless taxi which runs on tracks, developed under the EU-funded project EDICT (evaluation and demonstration of innovative city transport), was launched in Cardiff, UK, on 17 January

The vehicles' designer Professor Martin Lowson told CORDIS News that the launch of the cars was 'very, very successful.'

Named ULTra (urban light transport), the vehicles were developed by Professor Lowson of Bristol University and are being developed by Advanced Transport Systems Ltd (ATS), a spin out company from Bristol University. The EU, NESTA (the UK's National endowment for science, technology and the arts), the UK's Department of trade and industry (DTI) and the Department of the environment, transport and the regions (DETR) are supporting the project. Cardiff City Council is funding detailed studies on the use of ULTra as a core element of their future integrated transport strategy, with a view the system becoming operational in 2003. The system is the only one of its kind in the world.

'This scheme is science fact and not science fiction because it uses existing technology and we look forward to operating the first fully operating system in Cardiff,' Trevor Smallwood, chairman of ATS is reported as having said.

The vehicles had a test run on a specially built test track with elevated sections, roughly one kilometre long, on 17 January. During the tests, which are expected to last around one year, ATS will look at aspects such as passenger comfort, automation and access.

The ULTra cars will be assessed by the EDICT project, funded under the energy, environment and sustainable development subsection of the Fifth Framework programme (FP5), which aims to assess the benefits of personal rapid transport (PRT) systems in four European cities: Cardiff in Wales, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Huddinge in Sweden, and Rome in Italy. A further seven cities from the EU and Accession States will participate as 'follower' cities. The project aims to examine where use of the ULTra cars would be most effective, Professor Lowson told CORDIS News.

The ULTra cars are designed to carry four persons and have a gross weight of 800 kg. The cars will be able to carry passengers non-stop to any station on the network on rails, either raised or at ground level. The system offers a reduction in energy consumption, emissions and traffic congestion compared with existing forms of transport and the system's developer, Martin Lowson believes that it can be implemented at a capital cost which approaches one third of conventional light rail. Studies also suggest that the complete cost of mature systems can be recovered from fares. As most transport accidents are caused by driver error, ULTra also offers higher levels of reliability and safety.

For further information on ULTra, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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