I had a ride on the first driverless bus in the UK roads and it was exciting and scary.

I did not know what to expect when I arrived at the front door of the ESA building at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus for the launch of the autonomous vehicle on Monday, November 29.

The new service is being trialled by Darwin Innovation Group, with support from ESA and the UK Space Agency.

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Oxford Mail: Autonomous Shuttle

At my arrival, I encounter a small bright yellow vehicle with no steering wheel, no pedals, and no mirrors.

The most curious thing about it was that you cannot tell its front from its back, as they both look the same.

Hopping on the shuttle I was a bit worried about how it would perform on the day's condition as the roads were a bit icy after the snow from the previous day.

Seeing the on-board operator, Peter Antal, made me feel more comfortable, and he reassured me that everything about it is safe.

He told me he had been a coach driver for seven years before training to operate the shuttle.

Oxford Mail: Peter Antal - shuttle operator

He then proceeded to show me an X Box video game controller, something no one would expect to find in a public transport.

As the bus is driverless, Peter explained, it is controlled by 5G and satellite connectivity, it knows the route it has to take and it stops to collect passengers at every bus stop in campus.

Yet, it cannot automatically overtake a car, for example, and that is when Peter and his X Box controller come into play.

The ride was nice, warm, and unexpectedly soothing, as it drives only to 14mph.

The shuttle, I was told, is designed to stop as soon as its sensors detect any hazards or there is a change in its environment, but I was not ready for its sudden and hard brake.

The seats were geared with seatbelts, so I would strongly advice to anyone who rides the shuttle to use them and be ready for when it brakes.

Luckily, this experience will not last for long, as I was told, they are working on fixing so that the shuttle makes a smooth brake.

At the end of the day, riding the driverless bus was a good experience, and allowed me to experience a bit of the future.


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