Oxbotica and Gatwick Airport are trialling driverless vehicles to cart workers around the airfield, with hopes to introduce more autonomous vehicles in future.

Gatwick Airport’s airside vehicles currently spend 90% of their time stationary, with airport employees using them to get to aircraft, between terminal buildings or to cart passengers around. Using autonomous cars will cut down the emissions created by the cars and buses, save costs and reduce the number of vehicles on airfields.

“If this trial proves successful then in the future we could have an Uber-like service operating across the airfield which staff can hail as and when they need to travel,” Cathal Corcoran, Chief Information Officer, Gatwick Airport, said.

“This trial is just the start and much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the start of widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world. The new technology is a more efficient way to manage vehicles and could lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles required, their associated costs and harmful emissions.”

In the future, airports may introduce a wider range of autonomous vehicles, including aircraft push back tugs, passenger load bridges, baggage tugs and transportation buses.

The data provided from the trials will be shared with worldwide travel and aviation associations such as the Department of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority to help them make better decisions about using autonomous technologies at airports.

“Airports offer an incredibly interesting domain for our autonomous driving software,” Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica said.

“There is a huge diversity of vehicles, each with a very specific mission.  The challenge of choreographing all of the activity around an individual plane, or in support of airport operations is immense and we look forward to working closely with Gatwick on this initial pilot that will demonstrate our self-driving technology carrying staff around the airfield.”