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AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

Leading Edge Innovation

Autonomous Vehicles

The POD – Vehicle Features

The Autonomous POD is the new incarnation of the Ultra vehicle currently in operation at Heathrow Terminal 5. Comfortable and robust, the Autonomous PODs are well-proven, reliable vehicles that are built from off-the-shelf automotive industry components and use advanced technology to provide a unique transport solution.

They feature an aluminium ladder frame chassis onto which the majority of the vehicle propulsion and guidance equipment is mounted. Sitting on top of the chassis is an aluminium honeycomb floor. Above this the vehicle is constructed of a steel frame and either ABS, GRP or carbon fibre panel body that can be fitted with single- or double-side electric doors. This sits on four wheels with rubber pneumatic tyres, with front-wheel steering and conventional damped-spring suspension.

Powertrain and Energy Systems

  • ‘7kW’ synchronous AC drive motor (typical average motive power use < 2kW)
  • Solid state drive controller/inverter
  • 48V lithium chemistry based battery pack
  • Automatic charging points
  • Fixed ratio transaxle assembly
  • Front wheel drive, with a four-wheel steering option being developed

Braking Systems

  • Drive motor regenerative braking
  • Fail safe electromagnetic ‘hold off’ motor brake
  • Fail safe electromagnetic ‘hold off’ rear wheel brakes
  • Safety interlocks between brakes, motor and doors

Interior and passenger controls

  • Interior panels vacuum-formed from grey, grained ABS
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Enhanced experience for deaf, hard of hearing, blind and partially sighted (currently under development)
  • Front and rear facing main seats and two side mounted flip down seats providing flexible accommodation for 4 -6 adults
  • Illuminating door/control switches
  • Two-way communications between passengers and control team
  • Internal and externally releasable emergency exit (locked while vehicle in motion)
  • Passenger information LCD screens
  • Internal lighting sufficient for reading
  • Vehicle signs/symbols and information labels
  • Non-slip, easy-clean floor covering or luxury carpeting available
  • Cabin heating, ventilation and air conditioning
  • Cabin smoke detector and emergency fire extinguisher

Chassis, suspension and steering systems

  • Fabricated aluminium ‘ladder frame’ lower chassis with structural aluminium honeycomb floor and bulkhead panels
  • Separate front and rear aluminium fabricated sub-frames with mountings for suspension, steering, motor/transmission and batteries
  • Bumper structure designed to progressively absorb impact energy
  • Welded steel tubular upper frame to support exterior and interior bodywork, side doors and front/rear hatches
  • Double wishbone suspension front and rear using predominantly aluminium machined wishbones, coil over damper units and standard automotive joints, bearings and bushes
  • Rack and pinion steering gear, operated by automotive electric power steering unit
  • 13” Wheels with automotive tubeless radial (135x70R13) tyres

Exterior body, doors and glazing

  • Body panels constructed in self-coloured ABS with high gloss acrylic capping, GRP or carbon fibre
  • Exterior panels bonded to vehicle structure
  • Twin leaf plug and slide doors
  • Doors actuated by DC motors through reduction gearbox and locking linkage system
  • Microprocessor controlled door operation
  • Vacuum-formed acrylic ‘quarter window’ glazing, available in varying levels of tint to suit your requirements
  • External vehicle operating and warning lights and programable sound generator

Control and guidance

  • Autonomous guidance, navigation and control unit using a combination of sensors for navigation
  • Condition and performance monitoring of vehicle components and systems
  • Automatic Vehicle Protection System to prevent collision between vehicles and infrastructure
  • Wireless communication system for 2-way data, passenger communication and command exchange between vehicle and system central control
  • Fleet Management System (FMS) available if required

Bespoke Builds

The Pods can be adapted both internally and externally to suit a variety applications and environments

The Autonomous POD is the new incarnation of the Ultra vehicle currently in operation at Heathrow Terminal 5. Comfortable and robust, the PODs are well-proven, reliable vehicles that are built from off-the-shelf automotive industry components and use advanced technology to provide a unique transport solution.

They feature an aluminium ladder frame chassis onto which the majority of the vehicle propulsion and guidance equipment is mounted. Sitting on top of the chassis is an aluminium honeycomb floor. Above this the vehicle is constructed of a steel frame and either ABS, GRP or carbon fibre panel body that can be fitted with single- or double-side electric doors. This sits on four wheels with rubber pneumatic tyres, with front-wheel steering and conventional damped-spring suspension.

Interior Design

The Autonomous Vehicle interiors are customisable, with the vacuum-formed grey panels offering a neutral base onto which appropriate designs and graphics can be printed. In addition to these aesthetic styling options, the Autonomous Vehicles have many customisable interior features:

  • The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems which provide passenger comfort during journeys, can be adapted to suit different environmental conditions and extremes of temperature
  • Interior LCD screens enables the operator to provide the passenger with relevant information about their journey; they can also be used to provide other services, such as advertising local services and amenities
  • A smart-card system can also be incorporated for destination selection and payment

Exterior Aesthetics

The exterior of the vehicle is formed from vacuum-formed panels, constructed using self-coloured ABS with high-gloss acrylic capping, attached to a tubular steel frame. This setup allows considerable flexibility in design, as each panel, including the windows, can be stylised as required. This enables completely different styles to be implemented in each system without significant delays or design and tooling costs.

The exterior design flexibility enables the client to visually integrate the Autonomous Vehicles system with the architecture and location environment. Application of vehicle wraps provide a blank canvas for advertisements and the generating of addition income.

The Autonomous Vehicles can also be modified to carry freight, with the flat floor and large door opening, enabling pallet-based goods to be easily loaded and unloaded. They can be adapted for cold storage and waste handling. While in transit, the freight POD will, to the casual eye, look in keeping with the remainder of the vehicles in the fleet, maintaining the prestigious appearance of the fleet in operation.

Vehicle Specifications

The physical specifications for the Ultra pods are given below. The vehicle features a flat floor which aligns accurately with stations to allow safe and easy access for push chairs, wheelchairs, luggage and people and meets the access requirements in both the UK (Disability Discrimination Act, DDA) and the US (Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA).

Physical Specifications:

Vehicle length 3.7m
Vehicle width 1.47m
Vehicle height 1.8 m
Unladen weight 980 kg
Door opening area ≥1.5m x 0.9m (h x w)
Flat floor area ≥1.44m x 1.2m (l x w)

Performance & Manoeuvrability

The table below gives a summary of the performance statistics for the Autonomous PODs:

Current maximum speed Limited to 40 kph (25 mph)
Emergency deceleration rate ~ 3 m/s2
Vehicle range 6 – 8 Hours
Maximum payload 450 kg
Turning circle 13m
Maximum climb angle 20%
Maximum planned climb angle 10%
Maximum planned decline angle 6.25%

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