Autonomous Vehicles Grants: Self-driving shuttle for Belfast

Northern Ireland’s first self-driving shuttle will soon be in operation in Belfast after a jointly funded project between the government and Belfast Harbour. 

Connecting the Titanic Quarter railway station to Thompson Dock in Queen’s Island, the shuttle service is part of the harbour’s £11m ‘Harlander’ project and will be available to residents, visitors and employees of some of the capital’s biggest venues such as Titanic Belfast.

Mike Dawson, Belfast Harbour’s People and Corporate Services Director, said: ‘We are delighted to be establishing the UK’s first operationally ready and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on publicly accessible roads within the Harbour Estate. 

‘This announcement supports our Smart Port ambitions and shows our commitment to the development of Belfast’s Innovation District. The City’s Innovation District has enormous potential for growth and we at Belfast Harbour want to play our part in helping to build an innovation eco-system that brings investment into the economy.’ 

The shuttle system will be the country’s first ‘operationally ready, scalable and commercially viable’ use of an automated shuttle service on mixed-use publicly used roads. 

Industry support for the project comes from the harbour alongside partners such as REE Automotive, Angoka, BT and Horiba Mira whilst the government’s Innovate UK has awarded £5.5m to the initiative. 

Innovate UK is working with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles on their ‘Connected and Automated Mobility’ programme in an effort to fund projects that demonstrate real world benefits of self-driving vehicles, using a £41.5m fund to support innovative schemes which will be matched by industry consortia. 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize. 

‘The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.’ 

The benefits of autonomous vehicles are also being explored in Leeds which recently saw the launch of autonomous grocery delivery bots.

Photo: Belfast Harbour

Featured photo: K. Mitch Hodge


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