Autonomous Vehicle at Langdale
Autonomous Vehicle at Langdale
/ 13th February 2020 /
Driverless Cars in the Lake District
With advances in technology over recent years, driverless cars are now getting closer to becoming a reality. An idea that has been circulating the technology sphere for years, autonomous cars are on the horizon of integrating into our society. With many prototypes having been built over the years, most have failed to tackle a range of technical and ethical boundaries. However, it can be said that progress is most certainly being made.
New innovations are being developed constantly in the hope that one day these driverless vehicles will become mainstream assets to the way we travel. Yet, with a large portion of the general public still sceptical about the vehicles, companies are finding it a challenge to shift perceptions, aiming to resolve this by conducting trials across the country to educate and encourage the acceptance of the upcoming self-drive vehicles.
Westfield Technology Group
Westfield Technology Group are the UK’s leading autonomous vehicle providers, one of many aiming to integrate autonomous cars into day to day life. Primarily developed in conjunction with Heathrow Airport to transport travellers to and from Terminal 5, and now a recent resident of The Langdale Estate, the cars have been increasing in popularity across the country.
A special guest to the Estate, the POD (pod on demand) is one of Westfield’s latest designs. Reliable, robust and fully electric, the POD combines advanced technology with contemporary design to provide a unique transport solution.
Offering an eco-friendly and on demand alternative to travel, the POD’s are an attractive way of transport for many. With features including 4-wheel drive, wheelchair access and the integration of Automatic Vehicle Protection Systems, they take on many aspects of any other functioning vehicle.
Taking around 7 to 8 hours to charge, these fully electrical vehicles access satellite GPS to function. With radar, laser and proximity sensors surrounding the car, the POD is fully aware of its surroundings, resulting in minimal chance of a collision or taking the wrong route.
Comfortably seating 4 adults, the POD is kitted out with iPads and interactive screens where passengers can listen to a guided tour of the area, or simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
Testing at Langdale
Last year, Westfield approached Langdale in the hope that they could use the Estate as a rural testing environment. And where better to test out a rural location than a 35-acre Estate situated in the heart of the Langdale Valley, where the weather is somewhat… unpredictable should we say.
Testing in the midst of winter, Westfield came to test their POD during January to mid February 2020, and as you may have guessed, this became quite the challenge. With the Estate being surrounded by countless pikes, covered by a blanket of trees, and let’s not forget the wind, rain and the thickest clouds you ever did see (disclaimer: we do get the occasional bit of sunshine), Westfield we’re certainly in the right place to test their rural Lake District location.
The technology of the autonomous vehicles requires access to GPS signal, which provides location, velocity and time synchronization data. Once this data has been retrieved, the vehicle can store information about the surrounding area, in which then allows a route to be mapped.
It came as no surprise that Westfield struggled to map a route for the POD since accessing GPS satellite was proving to be a frequent issue due to the area. On average, it takes around 2 days to plot a route for a POD, however after 3 weeks there still hadn’t been much progress. With the interference of trees, mountains and the wet weather, Westfield were facing a bigger challenge than they anticipated.
Here for just over a month, Langdale provided a range of challenges for the POD to face. Nevertheless, Westfield took it in their stride and utilised the opportunity, working on how they can adapt their POD to suit all locations.
The Future of the POD
Langdale are humbled to have been a part of the testing for Westfield. Our rural location may come as a challenge on occasion, but the rewards of the natural Lakeland surroundings are incomparable and most certainly worth it.
For now, the POD’s can only be used within an enclosed area. Westfield plan to venture to our neighbours next, Brockhole on Windermere, where the POD’s will function as a shuttle from the car park for visitors throughout the summer months.
The future of autonomous vehicles is still unsure. Set to become mainstream within the next decade, it is evident there are still a range of barriers that the vehicles need to overcome before they are integrated into society. With this being said, technology is soaring, and with new innovations being suggested daily, the integration may come earlier than anticipated.