12 April, 2017
Meet Harry. Harry is a vehicle called a pod – in other words, something like a car. But Harry has no steering wheel or brake pedal. Harry does not even have a driver.
Yet Harry is carrying passengers around London for the next few weeks.
Harry is part of an experiment called GATEway that is testing how people react to driverless vehicles. The name GATEway is short for Greenwich Automated Transport Environment. The experiment aims to help cities prepare for the future of transportation.
The GATEway experiment does not test new technology. Instead, it tests the way existing technology can work in society.
The pod operates in an area of London called Greenwich, home of time and navigation museums. Other places where pods will be tested are Coventry, Milton, Keynes and Bristol.
The pods navigate using sensors and a 3D map of the area. A safety operator rides along to take control in case of an emergency.
GATEway is intended to see how pedestrians and cyclists may adapt to driverless vehicles. Harry holds up to four people (three passengers and a safety operator) and can travel at speeds up to 16kmh. It is being tested in Greenwich on pedestrian paths, but not on roads with other vehicles.
Other planned trials include pods delivering packages and pods being used on roads with other vehicles.
This video shows the pod being tested in Greenwich:
If you are in Greenwich during the next few weeks you may see Harry, but you cannot ride in it during the trial. Over 5000 people applied to be a passenger in Harry but only about 100 were chosen.
You can, however, ride in a similar pod at Heathrow Airport in London. The Heathrow pods run on tracks so are not being tested with pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers.
If the trials are successful, the first pods could be operational on the roads of the UK in 2019.
Learn more and get involved
You can learn more about the experiment at the GATEway website. There you can add your views about where you would like to see the pod travel and share your thoughts about driverless public transportation.
You can also read comments to see what others think of driverless pods.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
Carolyn Nicander Mohr wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Would you like to ride in a driverless pod? Would you like to see these where you live? Do you think the public will accept these pods as a new form of transportation?
Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below or on Facebook page.
Words in This Story
vehicle - n. a machine that is used to carry people or goods from one place to another
pod - n. a long, narrow object that is used to hold something
driverless - adj. without a driver
navigation - n. the act, activity, or process of finding the way to get to a place when you are traveling
sensor - n. a device that detects or senses heat, light, sound, motion, etc., and then reacts to it in a particular way
pedestrian - n. a person who is walking in a city, along a road, etc.
cyclist - n. a person who is riding a bicycle