Once FiveAI successfully rolls out its driverless system, it for sure won’t be the first. Completely automatic and driverless public transport systems in the form of driverless subway lines, people movers, and commuter rail lines are found across the world. However, these driverless high-capacity systems are radically different to what FiveAI has envisioned. Platform screen doors, tunnels and elevated tracks, that other companies have designed, need a completely controlled environment. FiveAI wants to be on public roads but will also have to deal with real-world situations.
However, what is most innovative about FiveAI is that the system will tackle the issue of mobility in low density areas like Bromley and Croydon. “There are a lot of problems to solve there (central London), but they are very well served by current providers,” says Ben Peters, FiveAI’s VP of product. It is the low density outer zones of the city, where people depend on private vehicles for their commute. Public transport in the form of autonomous (electric) cars has great benefits over personal cars in suburban areas, and is more cost-efficient than mass rapid transit in this context. A system like FiveAI could provide a great addition to mainline train services and subway lines by feeding them with residents from outer city neighborhoods that would otherwise choose to use their car.
Before FiveAI’s cars are there to get you from your home to the nearest tube or overground station, the system will have go on trial for 10 months to gathering real-world sensor data to develop the shared driverless passenger service further. Testing is especially important in the European context as urban density, road layout and street markings are less universal than in the US, where a lot of autonomous vehicles are being developed. Starting from 2019, self-driving vehicles will be found driving around the boroughs of Bromley and Croydon.