Some of the world’s top golfers will be part of a global first demonstration when the European Tour rolls into the Celtic Manor Resort for the ISPS Handa Wales Open today.
Golfers and their caddies will be among the first professional sportspeople ever to be transported in an autonomous shuttle.
Coventry-based Aurrigo is behind the innovation and will be running a driverless transport service from the famous Twenty Ten Club House to the 1st tee.
The shuttle, which can normally carry up to 12 people, has been redesigned specifically for the tournament to follow all Covid-19 rules, with three twin bench seats able to carry a golfer and their caddie two metres apart. A touchless sanitiser unit is available as you enter the vehicle and masks/gloves will be available for additional protection.
Lidars, cameras and inertial navigation technology guide the vehicle throughout its journey and a partnership with Vodafone provides the 4G real-time data connectivity via their cellular communications network.
The data can then be viewed by the Aurrigo fleet management system to remotely monitor and track the vehicles.
David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo, said: “This is a really exciting milestone for our business and this technology, as it will be the first time ever in the world that sportspeople will be carried by an autonomous vehicle at a live event.
“We have been working extremely closely with the European Tour and the players to redesign the inside of the shuttle to ensure that it is fully Covid-19 secure, whilst our new technology partnership with Vodafone will provide vital connectivity.
“Our engineering team will be based at the Celtic Manor Resort to oversee the shuttle’s operations, which will be running for the duration of the ISPS Handa Wales Open. In total, we expect to make over 100 driverless journeys.”
Aurrigo, which operates from its Advanced Centre of Engineering in Coventry, has been developing the shuttle for the last two years since it was appointed to be part of the UK Government’s CCAV Smart Cambridge’s T-CABS project to deliver the UK’s first autonomous bus route.
The shuttle is constructed from high strength composite materials to create a lightweight, efficient vehicle structure offering a range of up to 124 miles on a single charge using a 96V lithium power pack coupled with a 22KW electric motor.
Before Covid-19, it was expected to seat 12 people and has the option to safely accommodate wheelchair passengers.
Keene adds: “The Celtic Manor Resort heard about our new autonomous shuttle and invited us to see if we could adapt a solution that could provide driverless transport for players competing in the Wales Open.
“It was such a big opportunity to showcase our technology in front of a global audience that we accepted the challenge and have come up with a Covid-19 secure autonomous vehicle that is a blueprint for other transport solutions.
“We believe it is the only EV shuttle of its kind that can be switched between operating autonomously or driven by an operator using a conventional steering wheel and pedals.
“This versatility has been a huge hit with a raft of global clients registering their interest for deploying them in leisure, retail, airports and industrial space.”
Anne Sheehan, Director at Vodafone UK, said: “It’s fantastic to see our leading connectivity playing a pivotal role in making this event happen. We’re always looking at ways in which our technology can overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19.”
UK Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “This is a global-first for the sporting world and I’m excited to see how this technology develops as we look to secure the UK’s position as a world-leading innovator.
“Self-driving vehicle technology is crucial for the transport revolution happening today in the UK, which is why milestones such as this are so important – helping to make everyday journeys greener, safer, more flexible and more reliable.”