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Gatwick airport to trial autonomous shuttle vehicles

London Gatwick is to be the first airport in the world to trial electric-powered autonomous vehicles to shuttle staff across the airfield.

The trial is thought to be the first of its kind for any airport in the world and - if successful and scaled up – could lead to airfield transport needs being met from a much smaller pool of autonomous vehicles, reducing the need for such large vehicle fleets, reducing emissions and saving on costs.

If the technology is proven in an airfield environment and following further trials, this project may be the precursor to a wide range of other autonomous vehicles being used on airport, including aircraft push back tugs, passenger load bridges, baggage tugs and transportation buses.

No passengers or aircraft will be involved in this trial, which will be limited to airside roads between the airport’s North and South terminals.

The trial will be run in partnership with Oxbotica – a company that develops software that enables vehicles to run autonomously without reliance on GPS or any other technology outside the vehicle.

Cathal Corcoran, Chief Information Officer, Gatwick Airport, said: “If this trial proves successful then in the future we could have an Uber-like service operating across the airfield which staff can hail as and when they need to travel.

“This trial is just the start and much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the beginning of the widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world. The new technology is a more efficient way to manage vehicles and could lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles required, emissions and associated costs.”