Leading self-driving vehicle software developer Oxa is to collaborate with eVersum, an electric commercial vehicle and passenger transportation solutions specialist, to deliver self-driving shuttles to the city of Belfast. Each shuttle will carry up to 40 passengers around the Innovation District in Northern Ireland’s Belfast Harbour Estate, as well as tourist attractions such as the revamped Titanic Belfast exhibition.
The Harlander Project is a vital component in the area’s sustainable transportation plan as current visitor numbers of over 3.6 million people a year are predicted to rise to more than 5.6 million by 2035 as a result of a major investment program. The first Belfast Harbour project shuttles are due to enter passenger service in 2025. Project Harlander’s industry partners and supporters also include BT, Horiba MIRA, Angoka and Zenzic.
The project is the latest in a rapidly increasing list of schemes in which Oxa is helping to unlock the benefits of autonomy for people and across industries, including a collaboration with US-based micro-transit provider Beep, which is developing shuttle services across seven US states with 26 customers.
“With eVersum, we can deploy passenger-carrying autonomous shuttle fleets almost anywhere, and these flexible forms of transport will become widespread as a way of moving people and goods in a safer, more efficient and faster way,” explained Oxa CEO Gavin Jackson. “The broader rollout of self-driving vehicles is starting, and shuttling can lead the way as the fastest-evolving commercial arena for Oxa self-driving technology to make its mark internationally.
“We are thrilled to announce our participation in the Harlander Project, a groundbreaking initiative backed by the UK government,” added Ben Jardine, chief product officer and CEO of eVersum UK. “The project strengthens the recent partnership announced with Oxa and it will propel eVersum’s growth. With Harlander, and with Oxa, we are laying the foundations for commercializing autonomous driving passenger transport across the UK and far beyond.”
The shuttles will be driven by Oxa Driver, a full stack of high-performance software components that can be integrated into any vehicle to enable safe and efficient self-driving. The system is highly modular and customizable and can be retrofitted as a complete solution or integrated into co-developed autonomy solutions in full or at a component level.
The eVersum eShuttle is a mid-sized complete low-floor accessible shuttle bus that is low noise and designed from the ground up utilizing the very latest zero-emission technology. Each shuttle in the Belfast deployment will have a human safety operator on board and be capable of carrying up to 20 people seated and 40 in total including standing room.
Testing, rollout and beyond
The Harlander project has a total budget of £11m (US$13.5m) and is partly funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). Dedicated to solving transportation challenges in the Belfast area, this deployment will initially see two autonomous shared passenger shuttles running between local transportation links, through Belfast’s Innovation District and major tourist attractions including the revamped Titanic Belfast. The project is part of Belfast Harbour’s strategic plans and investment, underscoring its commitment to enhancing local infrastructure utilizing cutting-edge technology.
The rollout phase involves a period of closed operation during the first quarter of 2025, before the service opens up for passengers. Oxa and eVersum’s expectation is that the Belfast project will be a blueprint for new public transportation networks across the UK and internationally that connect people and places more dynamically – all based on self-driving systems that are safer, more efficient and flexible than what exists today.
Innovate UK executive director for Net Zero Mike Biddle said, “The UK connected and automated mobility (CAM) industry is maturing to become of crucial importance to the UK, and promises safer, cleaner and more efficient transport systems benefiting everyone. We welcome new commercial partnerships that strengthen the ecosystem and will continue to support all UK partners with their strategic ambitions.”
Mike Dawson, people and digital transformation director at Belfast Harbour, concluded, “Belfast Harbour has a long track record of delivering and supporting innovation, so we are delighted to be working with Oxa and eVersum to deliver the UK’s first operationally ready and commercially viable automated shuttle service on publicly accessible roads within the Harbour Estate. This partnership supports our Smart Port ambitions and shows our commitment to the development of Belfast’s Innovation District.”
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