The electric-powered Lutz Pathfinder pod was presented to the public of Milton Keynes, UK, yesterday. The two-seater is due to be trialed as a means of ferrying members of the public around town, initially under driver control but eventually as a fully autonomous vehicle.

Launched in February by the UK's Transport Systems Catapult, the Lutz Pathfinder project is aimed at exploring the use of self-driving vehicles from a technological and societal point of view. A total of three pods will be rolled out as part of the trial, with users able to book them for last mile journeys via a mobile app.

The pods have been designed and built over the last 18 months. They will shortly be fitted with an autonomous control system, which will be installed by the University of Oxford's Mobile Robotics Group, before the start of the trial proper.

At first, the pods will be manually driven around the environment in which they will be deployed, so as to learn and map it. They will then begin autonomous operation as a means of public transportation, with a maximum speed of 15 mph (24 km/h). Trained operators will be seated at the controls of the pods for the duration of the trial, to take control if necessary.

Transport Systems Catapult says the findings of the Lutz Pathfinder project will inform the UK Autodrive program, which is set to trial a fleet of 40 self-driving pods, as well as road-based cars.

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