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Bus, train and… driverless car? PriestmanGoode’s futuristic vehicle might change your commute forever

Published 21.09.21

We already know the cars of the future will be electric but, for many, their affordability is currently out of reach. The good news is you won’t necessarily need to own or even drive one to benefit from zero-emission transportation – autonomous transit networks, powered by driverless vehicles, are (just about) here.

UK-based design consultancy PriestmanGoode is one of the companies helping to crystallise a future powered by self-driving cars. In 2019, it collaborated with transportation firm Dromos Technologies to design a concept for a driverless vehicle. The result was a versatile vehicle that not only captured visual imaginations but also demonstrated a mass transit solution (one the planet needs).

Speaking to Frame, PriestmanGoode co-founder and chairman Paul Priestman said: “So many proposed concepts for electric autonomous vehicles don’t offer the capacity to really challenge current public transport options…What we’re helping design is a system that allows you to go from point to point, but on a mass-transit scale.” 

Where car-less individuals were once resigned to the bus or train, today their options are plentiful. Cities are experimenting with more pedestrianised roads and expanding their public transport networks, and we’re seeing a diversification of ridesharing apps and a spike in peer-to-peer car sharing platforms. But an autonomous network like the one proposed by Dromos and PriestmanGoode could take things to a whole new level.  

Dromos - Image supplied by PriestmanGoode

“From the app based booking system to the interior design of the vehicles, we have delivered a holistic design that will make a system like Dromos a genuine alternative to existing outdated public transport infrastructure and, if rolled out in a sufficient scale, an alternative to private vehicle ownership,” says PriestmanGoode’s associate strategy director Jo Rowan.  

As well as providing passengers with privacy and comfort, the system is quicker and less expensive to construct and operate than public transport and is CO2 neutral at the point of use. Autonomous vehicles could also solve the all-too-familiar “first and last mile” problem. “This refers to how a passenger gets from say their home to the train station or from the subway stop to their final destination,” Rowan says. “A concept like Dromos answers these problems and more, providing a high capacity, on-demand network, which is accessible and passenger-focused.”  

Picture a Friday night out with friends, or your morning commute into the city. Instead of booking an Uber or taking crowded public transport, you step into a self-driven car. The capsule-style interior features a skylight, large windows and enough seating for four. “To that extent it is like you’re travelling in your own private vehicle,” Priestman says. “[And] you can still get on with an array of different tasks that you wouldn’t consider in a crowded carriage.” Before you know it, you’ve arrived at the doorstep of your destination, without the need for a driver, carbon emissions or your own car. 

New Car for London - Image supplied by PriestmanGoode

While having a driverless car roll around the block to pick you up and take you to a destination feels like a futuristic notion, it could happen sooner than you think. The Dromos concept has now been submitted as a proposal for a new infrastructure project for the Cambridgeshire region in England, with the goal to connect towns, villages, major employment sites and the city. Earlier this year, PriestmanGoode also unveiled the New Car for London project, a driverless ride-hailing vehicle it hopes will join the city’s iconic modes of transport like the tube and double-decker bus.  

“There are some places [like London’s Heathrow Airport] where autonomous vehicles already operate on a small scale, within their own infrastructures,” Rowan says. “The technology exists to develop a large scale, fully autonomous infrastructure…We have worked with Dromos to create the passenger experience that will enable this technology to be successfully integrated into our daily lives.”

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