There’s been a lot of talk of Google’s bubble cars as of late. The autonomous, only work on one per cent of road cars, with their low speed limits and moral quandaries. The problem is that with all their limitations, while they might see a trial in the next six months or so, they won’t hit the roads in large numbers until the 2020’s. However, in the mean time, we aren’t just going to be stuck with stop-gap technologies from the big car makers, as one British firm, the RDM group, is developing a driverless vehicle with some interesting ideas behind it.
Much like Google’s cars, the RDM’s little pod cars use lasers and radar to navigate and avoid pedestrians and other obstacles, but they won’t quite be whizzing around our streets at 25 miles per hour like Google’s cars, but more like seven miles per hour. Yes, the first automated cars on our roads (and potentially pavements) could be a replacement for the OAP buggy that’s seen much usage in recent years.
This is all thanks to RDM Group winning a development contract with Oxford University’s mobile robotics group which is working on the pod system as part of the government’s Low Carbon Urban Transport Zone (LUTZ) Pathfinder project.
As Express explains, it’s likely that RDM will bring to bear its recently innovated advanced engineering centre, said to have cost upwards of £400,000. It’s there that the prototypes for the new pod vehicles are being built.
RDM has previously worked with high profile vehicle manufacturers like Land Rover, Aston Martin, Bentley and many others, so its pedigree for vehicle design and innovation is there. Most recently it’s developed a rechargeable torch for Jaguar Land Rover, which is being built in the UK, having previously been set to be manufactured in China.
“It has the potential to be a game changer for the business if it goes line side,” say CEO of RDM David Keene. “Torches of this kind are technically very difficult as they have to be totally reliable. But customers really value this kind of personalised accessory.”
He hopes that with the recent push for automated vehicles in the UK, with the government suggesting trials could take place next year once legislation was sorted out, that it will open up a big business opportunity for not only RDM, but the rest of the UK manufacturing and design sectors.
The only concern he had with the whole thing, was that there might not be enough skilled, British, manufacturing labour to fill the roles necessary. It’s expected that from the torch contract alone, RDM will be expanding its current team by 10 and with the potential for automated vehicle construction, it could expand even more.
In the past 12 months alone, RDM has grown by over 25 per cent and expects revenue this year to reach the lofty heights of £8 million. Current employee numbers top out at 41.