Team behind project hope a fleet of 40 pods will be available to public next year

Driverless buses Helsinki

A driverless car has been tested in public for the first time in the UK.

The two-seater electric vehicle travelled in a 1km (0.6-mile) loop on the pavements around Milton Keyne’s railway station.

The team behind the project said they hoped a fleet of 40 of the pods would be available to the public next year, the BBC reports.

Google and Uber have tested autonomous vehicles on American roads, while previous UK trials have involved a human manually operating the vehicle.

Programme director Neil Fulton said: “This public demonstration represents a major milestone for autonomous vehicles in the UK and the culmination of an extensive project involving UK companies and experts.

The autonomy software running the vehicle, called Selenium, was developed by Oxford University’s Oxford Robotics Institute and integrated by Oxford University spinout company Oxbotica.

Selenium uses data from cameras and LIDAR systems to navigate its way around the environment.

Earlier this year the government launched a consultation on changes to insurance rules and motoring regulations to allow driverless cars to be used by 2020.

It said it would allow such vehicles to be tested on motorways from next year.

The trial in Milton Keynes took 18 months to plan.

It required a virtual mapping of the town along with extensive work with Milton Keynes Council to ensure the vehicles would be safe, conform to regulations and be accepted by the public.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Today’s first public trials of driverless vehicles in our towns is a ground-breaking moment and further evidence that Britain is at the forefront of innovation.

“The global market for autonomous vehicles present huge opportunities for our automotive and technology firms.

“And the research that underpins the technology and software will have applications way beyond autonomous vehicles.”

There are other driverless car trials being carried out, in Bristol and London. Both are likely to conduct public trials in coming months.