Self-driving pods win national innovation award

A ground-breaking research programme which will trial three self-driving vehicles on pedestrianised areas of Milton Keynes has won this year’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Automotive Award for Innovation.

The LUTZ Pathfinder project saw off competition from four other shortlisted contenders to pick up the prestigious trophy at the 99th SMMT Annual Dinner.

Self-driving pod wins national innovation awardOverseen by the Transport Systems Catapult on behalf of the UK Automotive Council, LUTZ Pathfinder is a collaborative project involving Coventry-based manufacturers RDM Group, the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) and Milton Keynes Council.

The three electric-powered pods will be used not only to trial the technology involved in operating self-driving vehicles, but also to assess public response to the pods in a real-world setting.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The quality of entries was extremely high and judging was tough but we were agreed that the Transport Systems Catapult should be recognised for its work in helping put Britain at the forefront of connected and driverless vehicle development. The LUTZ Pathfinder trial is not only an innovation in itself but will provide invaluable data, experience and learning for the whole sector.”

The SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation demonstrates the wealth of design and engineering talent in the UK automotive sector by rewarding UK-developed technologies that have the potential to benefit the UK’s automotive industry. The award is now in its sixth year, with previous winners including Torotrak Group, Gordon Murray Design, Jaguar Land Rover, Optare and Ford.

“This is a massive honour for the Transport Systems Catapult and for all our partners on the LUTZ Pathfinder project,” said Transport Systems Catapult CEO Steve Yianni after receiving the award on behalf of the project team.

“The TSC only began its operations in 2013, so to have already won such a prestigious national innovation award is a great tribute to the ground-breaking work that our people are carrying out together with our partners in the field of Intelligent Mobility.”

David Keene, Chief Executive of RDM Group, which has designed and built the pods, said: “The SMMT Innovation Award caps a remarkable year for our business and underlines how the LUTZ project has captured not only the UK’s imagination, but the rest of the world too.

“We have been able to show how the design, engineering and agility of an SME can play a fundamental role in delivering driverless vehicles to the pavements of Milton Keynes. It has been a real team effort and we’re delighted that our hard work and collaboration has been rewarded with such a prestigious honour.”

Professor Paul Newman of the Department’s Oxford MRG, which is providing and developing the ‘Mercury’ autonomy system used by the pods said: “This is a very good thing. It's great to see such a complex and ambitious project being recognised like this. The LUTZ program is an ideal platform on which to trial, integrate and demonstrate ‘Mercury’. We are all privileged to receive this award.”

The first LUTZ Pathfinder pod is currently at Oxford MRG for the integration of the autonomous control system. The Milton Keynes trials are due to start in early 2016 – at first in manual mode, before being switched to automated driving. A trained human operator will remain in each pod for the duration of the trial, ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary.

Milton Keynes Council Leader Pete Marland said: “This award – from the people who really know what they’re talking about - is excellent news and once again puts Milton Keynes firmly on the map. It highlights how we are leading the world with this cutting edge technology, and is a much deserved ‘thank you’ for the hard work of all of those people involved in the driverless pods project.”

SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation 2015 shortlisted entries:

•             WINNER: Transport Systems Catapult – LUTZ Pathfinder project

•             HIGHLY COMMENDED: Leyland Trucks – Future truck chassis concept

•             HIGHLY COMMENDED: Oxford Advanced Surfaces – Onto adhesion

•             Evolute Drives – Msys Transmission

•             ZeroLight – Digital 3D car configurator.

About the Transport Systems Catapult

The Transport Systems Catapult is the UK’s technology and innovation centre for Intelligent Mobility, harnessing emerging technologies to improve the movement of people and goods around the world. It is one of an elite network of not-for-profit technology and innovation centres established and overseen by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more information please visit:

For more information on LUTZ Pathfinder, please visit: