Self-driving shuttle arrives in Sunderland

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The debut of the self-driving Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle (SAMS) aims to revolutionise urban mobility in the city.

SAMS, which arrived in Sunderland recently, promises to redefine how residents and visitors navigate the city streets. This autonomous shuttle, set to hit the roads this spring, represents a milestone in Sunderland’s journey towards embracing self-driving technology.

Sunderland’s Mayor, Councillor Dorothy Trueman, said: “We are thrilled to welcome the innovative SAMS shuttle to Sunderland, marking the beginning of a new era in urban mobility for our residents and visitors.

“The arrival of SAMS signifies Sunderland and the wider region’s position as a forward-thinking location, leading the way in adopting transformative technologies that enhance the lives of our community members.”

As preparations gear up for its launch, focus shifts towards training operators to oversee and manage the shuttle’s autonomous operations effectively. Operator training is scheduled to commence in April as part of the city’s commitment to ensuring the safe and efficient integration of self-driving technology into its transportation system.

One crucial aspect of the preparation involves mapping the shuttle’s route meticulously. By creating a comprehensive and accurate map, authorities aim to optimise SAMS’ navigation capabilities.

The SAMS project will feature three self-driving zero-emission shuttles – custom-designed by Aurrigo – ferrying passengers between Sunderland Interchange, the University of Sunderland City Campus, and the Sunderland Royal Hospital. Safety operators will be onboard during the trial phase, which will also demonstrate a cyber-secure remote supervision protocol.

Richard Fairchild, COO at Aurrigo, said: “Collaborating with technology leaders at Sunderland City Council and other project partners to develop plans into real-world solutions is a significant step forward in research for self-driving vehicles operating on public roads.

“With the arrival of the SAMS shuttle, Sunderland is poised to emerge as a trailblazer in the realm of self-driving transportation—setting a precedent for other cities to follow in the quest for smarter, more efficient mobility solutions.” 

Operating along an intelligent transport corridor enabled by 5G small cells installed along the route, SAMS promises a glimpse into the future of urban mobility.

Backed by a £3 million government grant, matched by industry contributions, the SAMS initiative is part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ (CCAV) Deployment competition. The project, led by Sunderland City Council in collaboration with various partners, aims to showcase the potential of connected and automated mobility.

Patrick Melia, Chief Executive at Sunderland City Council, said: “As we prepare to welcome the Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle to our city streets, we are embarking on an exciting journey towards a more connected and sustainable future.

“SAMS represents a significant leap forward in our efforts to embrace innovation and improve the quality of life for our residents. We look forward to seeing the positive impact this self-driving shuttle will have on urban mobility across Sunderland.”

The launch of the SAMS shuttle marks the beginning of a promising journey towards a more connected and sustainable future for Sunderland and beyond.

See also: HARMAN looks to ‘democratise automotive connectivity’ with new telematics unit

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