A mock-up of how a Lake District pod, in its national park 'wrap', might look

A mock-up of how a Lake District pod, in its national park 'wrap', might look

Visitors to the Lake District will be able to get a glimpse of the future when a driverless ‘pod’ makes its debut in the national park.

The self-driving vehicle is being examined as a possible way of transporting people round the area.

Westfield Technology Group, which has developed the automated pods, will bring one of the vehicles to the Brockhole visitor centre this weekend as part of a feasibility study with the national park authority.

It will be the first such study in a UK national park and Unesco world heritage site.

The driverless pods are electric self-driving vehicles, meaning no driver or steering wheel is required. Westfield said the pods use advanced technology, including sensors to detect road conditions and obstacles in the road, to transport people in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

The pods are being trialled as a potential solution to the problems of providing sustainable solution to the park’s transport needs for visitors and residents.

Richard Leafe: 'interesting concept'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Richard Leafe: 'interesting concept'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said: “We’re constantly looking at new ways to balance the needs and enjoyment of people as they visit and move around the Lake District, while being mindful of the impact on the environment.

“Driverless pods are a really interesting concept and while this is not necessarily something that will be seen on the Lake District streets soon, it’s vital we explore a range of solutions to sustainable travel.

“We’re excited to see the pods in action this week and to hear from the public on whether they would use this type of transport in the Lake District.”

One of the vehicles will be demonstrated within the grounds of Brockhole, near Windermere, on Friday and Saturday this week. Visitors will be asked to share their thoughts on the sustainable transport type and whether they feel it will be effective in the Lake District, as part of the feasibility study, which is funded by Innovate UK.

Westfield said the pod is the UK’s first fully autonomous vehicle for ‘first mile to last mile’ transportation. It has been developed in conjunction with Heathrow Airport and uses the base technology platform from the work completed by ULTra PRT (Personal Rapid Transit). The original system has now completed more than 5 million kilometres in a live commercial environment serving Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 pod parking.

Julian Turner, Westfield Technology Group chief executive, said: “We’re really excited to be trialling the pods in the Lake District, which is such a popular tourist destination in the UK.

“Through this project we’re identifying possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs. This collaborative effort will allow us to creative a sustainable and accessible transport mode for journeys in the future.

“We’re particularly looking forward to hearing feedback from the local residents and visitors at Brockhole, as their input into how services can help meet their needs will be invaluable when planning possible routes for the pod to run in this area”

The results of the feasibility study, which is due to end in June, will inform whether this type of transport would be suitable in the Lake District and which routes would be viable for vehicle travel.

The pod will be at Brockhole from 1pm to 4pm on Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturday.

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