Once the stuff of sci-fi films, autonomous vehicles are now dizzyingly close to becoming a reality. In the UK, big automotive brands like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Tesla have been developing the tech in the hope that it will eliminate the dangers of human error, while the government, keen to pip less innovative European rivals before Brexit, has promised to get autonomous vehicles on roads by 2021. The potential is massive too – in Great Britain alone, the self-driving car industry is expected to be worth £28 billion over the next 17 years.
At IAG Cargo’s Heathrow HQ, the technology has already been rolled out for trial, heralding a new age for the future of airports. Earlier this year, we launched the first test of a self-driving vehicle at a UK airport, in partnership with Oxbotica – a UK company specialising in self-driving software. Known as the ‘cargo pod’, Oxbotica’s autonomous vehicle spent over three weeks travelling along the airside perimeter, allowing it to collect 200km of data that will be used to make cargo management and handling more efficient.
Much of the news surrounding self-driving tech has come from within the logistics and transportation sectors. German automotive company Daimler Trucks was commissioned last year to use automated trucks to clear snow from runways at Frankfurt airport. At Brussels airport, public bus operator De Lijn is expected to implement driverless buses this year, with plans to transport 60,000 passengers and 30,000 employees each day around the airport. Already at Heathrow, autonomous electric ‘pods’ run across a 3.8km track connecting passengers with airport parking lots to Terminal 5.
Speaking about the trial, IAG Cargo’s CEO Lynne Embleton said: “Technology is evolving at an incredible pace. We are working with fantastic businesses like Oxbotica to develop new capabilities that will change the way airports function around the world. The trial has yielded valuable insights and is another step in our ongoing commitment to embrace new technologies, improve processes and enhance our offering to our customers.”
Together with Heathrow airport, IAG Cargo is committed to bringing new technologies that will maintain safety while increasing productivity and value and for customers.