The concept is based on fusing together existing information from other vehicles in the fleet to allow each Pod to locally decide the most appropriate action for the group as a whole.
This means that pods can highlight any unexpected behaviour to a supervisor, as well as giving local authorities the chance to take advantage of ‘platooning’, where vehicles follow each other when possible to minimise the number or individual vehicle movements.
The technology also makes the system automatically adapt its behaviour to meet demand so that Pods can be optimally distributed within a city to the areas where they are most likely requested.
Simon Brewerton, chief technology officer at RDM Group, explained: “SWARM will be developed over the next two years with a view to starting the three-month trial in April 2019. It will also utilise WMG’s ‘3xD simulator for Intelligent Vehicles’ that will allow multiple virtual pods to be simulated alongside pods operating in real time at two different test sites.”
RDM Group is trying to replicate the behaviour seen in ant and bee colonies, where information is shared between insects to achieve a coordinated end goal to improve efficiency of the fleet, reduce human involvement and costs, and maximise the performance of the fleet.
In addition to its involvement in LUTZ Pathfinder and UK Autodrive, RDM Group is also manufacturing its own ‘Pod Zero’ range that it can sell to potential clients all over the world for use in ‘first and last mile’ transport solutions.
Dr Stewart Birrell, assistant professor at WMG, added: “Research and development is moving away from the technical challenges of making these autonomous pods self-driving towards how a fleet of pods will be deployed in the ‘real-world’.”