(l-r) Cllr Ian Courts, Nick Barton (Birmingham Airport) and Henriette Breukelaar (Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP)

Birmingham Airport welcomes first autonomous shuttle

Image credit: Aurrigo

A driverless shuttle, owned by Solihull Council and designed and built in Coventry, will make its debut on the grounds of Birmingham Airport for the first time this week.

Coventry-based transport company Aurrigo, which employs over 70 people at its Advanced Engineering Centre, will deploy its 10-seater 'Auto-Shuttle' alongside live traffic on the roads of the airport.

The zero-emissions autonomous shuttle uses a suite of sensors, including lidar, to understand its surroundings and move safely around its environment.

For testing, Aurrigo will limit the shuttle to a top speed of 20mph. In line with current legislation, a safety operator will be always on board who can take control of the shuttle at any point if required.

Miles Garner, sales and marketing director at Aurrigo, explained: “We are delighted to be working with Solihull Council again to deliver another milestone, with Birmingham Airport becoming the first-ever airport to test our autonomous shuttles passenger side on their roads.

“Aviation is a major opportunity for Aurrigo, with a genuine desire to find new technologies that can improve the passenger experience. This could be through our driverless shuttles, our 'Auto-Sim' modelling software, or it could be through our 'Auto-Dolly' cargo/luggage dolly that can replace the traditional tugs that are commonplace in airports all over the world.”

This trial is the latest phase in a larger Council-led project which aims to test out how the borough can integrate connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) into its transport network in the future.

The council initially demoed the zero-emissions self-driving shuttle at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) last Autumn, where it operated autonomously on Solihull roads for the first time, whilst carrying passengers along a pre-mapped section of Pendigo Way, near the centre.

“Autonomous technology promises enormous benefits to airports and the service companies that support them, with the potential to transform the way we work and improve efficiency and safety for passengers, staff and other airport users,” said Nick Barton, chief executive at Birmingham Airport.

“We are really excited to be working with Solihull Council on this trial, which will provide us with invaluable insight into how we can incorporate CAVs into our vehicle fleet. This trial of fully electric vehicles, and testing their capabilities on-site, is making sure we are working towards our net-zero carbon target by 2033.”

Auto-Sim, the cloud-based tool developed by Aurrigo, is currently being used in Changi Airport in Singapore to help with development work on a new terminal. They hope that the digital twin modelling work could prove the business case for its Auto-Dolly technology to replace conventional diesel-powered luggage and cargo tractors and trailers by two-thirds.

Councillor Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, concluded: “CAV technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas and transport goods. I’m excited that we are the first Council in the country to purchase our very own zero-emission, road-legal, shared use Connected Autonomous Vehicle and we are keen to put it to use.

“This project is all about looking at how we can practically and safely incorporate autonomous vehicles into our future transport infrastructure. Already one of the best-connected destinations in the UK and Europe, Birmingham Airport is the perfect place to trial our shuttle, providing us with a busy but controlled environment in which to gain further real-world operating experience.”

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