London's first driverless cars will be these airport-style pods

Heathrow UltraPODs
Heathrow UltraPODs in action

If you hadn't noticed, the autonomous motoring revolution is almost upon us, and the first self-driving cars to arrive on the streets of London are going to be based on the shuttle pods currently in use at Heathrow Airport.

The adapted vehicles will be involved in limited trials in Greenwich as part of the GATEway project, led by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory

British firms Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica are working together to adapt the Heathrow UltraPODS for use on real streets in a project that's expected to cost £8m. The testing begins in July and will run for three months.

Podding along

According to their makers, the pods in use at Heathrow have transported 1.5 million passengers in the last five years and covered around 1.8 million miles. At first only a select number of invited passengers will be able to hop on board, but the pods are going to be open to the general public before the end of their trial run.

The electric cars will connect to the cloud to report their position at all times and avoid crashing into one another. The routes are going to link residential areas, local businesses and transport hubs, helping Londoners scoot from one place to another without having to get behind the wheel.

"It will tell us whether people trust and accept these vehicles and how they would work as part of the urban landscape," Professor Nick Reed, Academy Director at TRL and project director for the GATEway project, told the BBC.

"This vehicle has millions of miles under its belt and now we have to take it outside of the track and modify it for use on pavements."

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.