When it comes to autonomous vehicles, many people have a hard time understanding the concept. For the past 130 years, people have been the ones to drive themselves and others around, relying on human interaction and human awareness in order to responsibly navigate the roadways. The idea of taking this responsibility out of the hands of humans and delegating computers to do this job can be seen as either exciting or scary, depending on who you are.
Without a doubt, autonomous vehicles are the way of the future. The only questions that have remained are “When?” and “Where?”
Researchers in the UK have been studying, engineering, and designing potential autonomous vehicles for years, and just last month the “LUTZ Pathfinder” was unveiled at a government launch event in Greenwich, London. The pod, which will be tested later this year in Milton Keynes, will be the UK’s first driverless vehicle. If all goes as planned, there will be a fleet of 40 of these vehicles in operation by the end of 2017.
One of the largest obstacles remaining in bringing these pods to other locations around the world is convincing the general public that they are feasible, necessary, and safe to use. At a recent festival in Shanghai, China, a 3D printed version of the LUTZ Pathfinder was on hand to show onlookers exactly how these pods compare to vehicles currently on the market.
“The 3D printed models were produced to show people what the pods would look like and how big they are in relationship to a person,” Daniela Murphy, Communications Officer for the Milton Keynes Council, tells 3DPrint.com.
The pods will be electric powered vehicles capable of seating two passengers. They will be able to drive on pavements and pedestrianized areas. Built by RDM Group, one of the UK’s fastest growing advanced engineering companies, they will be equipped with extensive sensors and navigation technology which is provided by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Robotics Group.
When they are tested later this year, it will mark the very first time that driverless vehicles are used in a real urban setting. The plan is to have these pods drive passengers approximately one mile from the train station in Milton Keynes to a local shopping area.
“The world will be watching as we move to the forefront of technology, bringing great benefits to our residents who will be able to use this cheaper, convenient and more environmentally aware mode of transport to make,” explained Peter Marland, the leader of Milton Keynes Council. “The importance of this project cannot be understated as it is a game-changer in the world of transport solutions. The UK is at the forefront of this emerging new technology and poised to become the leading supplier of autonomous vehicles and systems around the world.”
As the world looks on to see how successful these LUTZ Pathfinders are in the UK, the makers will be showing off their creations with these 3D printed scaled down models of the vehicles, along with videos showing them in action. This appears as though it could be the start of what may just be the decade which introduces driverless vehicles to the the world, and 3D printing is playing a role, albeit a small one, in getting us there.
What do you think about the 3D printing of these miniature scaled down models, used in order to help show those interested in the technology a little more about what these pods are and how their size relates to that of a human? Discuss in the 3D printed LUTZ Pathfinder forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below talking about these 3D printed models a bit more (starting at about 16 seconds in), as well as the video showing off the LUTZ Pathfinder in more details.