In the latest example of UK manufacturing flexing its muscles the Czech Republic capital – a major worldwide tourist destination – will replace horse and cart with autonomous transport.
It is the first time Coventry-based Aurrigo International will deploy its futuristic Auto-Shuttle in mainland Europe, describing the pioneering move as a “major export win”.
Tests will also be running in neighbouring Czech city Brno and, closer to home, Milton Keynes. If successful, a flood of orders from congested cities around the world is likely.
Chief executive David Keene said: “The medieval, cobbled streets of Prague – built before cars or buses were even dreamt of – are in stark contrast to the modern roads of Milton Keynes, which shows the importance of testing in multiple cities.”
Ninety per cent of the £250,000 project cost has been stumped up by the European Union via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in a ringing endorsement of world-beating British research, technology and development.
The Auto-Shuttle will make its bow in the City of a Hundred Spires with a safety driver on board as the company works towards the goal of providing complete autonomy in public transport.
The self-driving vehicles use a suite of sensors to understand the streets and surroundings while software provides a 3D, all-weather picture to enhance safety and efficiency. The vehicles are electric-powered.
Mr Keene added: “Although we work all over the world, this is the first Auto-Shuttle deployment in mainland Europe for Aurrigo. We create the vehicle, software and autonomous driving hardware in-house, to work in perfect harmony and this level of integration is vital when breaking new ground in driverless technology.”
Aurrigo first tested its self-driving vehicles at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, the backdrop to Harry Potter and The Transformers films, last year.
Bani Anvari, Professor of Intelligent Mobility at University College London, said: “Cities face challenges such as reducing emissions, improving the safety and mobility of cyclists or pedestrians and increasing quality of life for citizens.
“Driverless shuttles or pods can be a game changer for cities as they address many of these challenges. However, low public acceptance, in combination with high investments in the new technology are a barrier to adoption for many cities.”
The major project comes as UK exports to the EU and rest of world reached record highs of almost £400 billion in 2022, global investment in Britain outstrips comparable major economies, the IMF forecasts the UK economy will grow by 0.4 percent this year – an upward revision of 0.7 percent – while the Eurozone flirts with recession.
Aurrigo, formed 29 years ago by brothers David and Graham Keene, has raised £8m to fund the development of its fleet of autonomous vehicles, some of which are already operating at major international airports including Changi International in Singapore and Gerald R Ford International in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
More than 50 jobs are set to be created in the UK and at overseas sales and technical offices in North America and the Far East.
It now plans to list on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Aurrigo’s stunning success comes after bullish British firms reported benefitting from a Brexit boost with one quarter of manufacturers saying they have repatriated the production and manufacturing of goods where it was once done overseas.
The move – known as reshoring- has created jobs, slashed unemployment and is seen as a sign British manufacturing is set to rule the world once again.
Rowan Crozier, Chief Executive of metal maker Brandauer, said: “The opportunities are there, they’re starting to be realised on shop floors all over the country.
However, there is still a big skills challenge in front of us to make sure we have the technical competences required to really seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity. If we build the skills base I’m pretty certain global business will come.”
Since Britain quit the bloc on January 31, 2020 Brandauer, a 160-year-old Birmingham-based family firm, has secured more than £2 million of new business with a roster of clients in France, Holland and Slovakia.
The company has invested heavily in technology and staff to offer prices rivalling China and quality that surpasses competitors in Germany.