By Christopher Carey

The trials will be hosted at the Stadium MK sports arena on the outskirts of the city.

Milton Keynes Council has secured more than £4 million  (US$5.4 million) in funding, including £2.3 million from the government, to create and test mobility services using 5G technology.

Trials will include the use of driverless shuttles and road vehicles for moving people and goods, autonomous surveillance vehicles and drones for enhancing security, and robots and drones for goods delivery and hospitality use. E-scooters could be included in the trials in future.

The initiative, which builds on a £10 million investment by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), industry and academic partners, will be hosted at the Stadium MK sports arena on the outskirts of the city.

Speaking to Cities Today, Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation, Milton Keynes Council, said: “The trials will be designed to provide useful input into thinking how visitors move around the venue, which includes an arena, a large hotel, restaurants and a retail complex.

“Inside the project there is a work stream looking at how we can transfer what we learn on the site to mimic future city services.

“One of our ambitions is to run an autonomous ten-seater shuttle between the railway station and the stadium site to demonstrate how this technology can work on both public and private roads.”

Partners involved in the trials will include BT, Appyway Parking, Aurrigo, RDM, Imperium Drive, Metaswitch, MK Dons, Neutral Wireless, City Fibre, Smart City, and the Connected Places and Satellite Applications Catapults.

The project is set to start in February and run until March 2022.

Council Leader Pete Marland said: “This is another important step in Milton Keynes’ journey as a modern, sustainable and forward-looking city for the future. Smart city projects like ours can do a lot to inspire and empower other major venues around the world to create better, greener experiences for visitors and staff, and boost their efficiency.”

E-scooter trials

In August, Milton Keynes launched one of the UK’s largest e-scooter pilots as part of a government programme to test how the micromobility devices could fit into its transit ecosystem.

To date almost 100,000 journeys have been undertaken, and despite some initial “teething problems”, Matthews says the trials have been very successful to date.

“The fact that we have three operators [Lime, Spin and Ginger] vying for business, we’re driving them to the top rather than the bottom. They’re all fully engaged and don’t want to fail.

“From our side, we’re wanting to explore innovative ways to use e-scooters and potentially integrate them into the 5G trials.

“One of the challenges we have is people using e-scooters on pavements in populated areas, so we want to work with the companies to get better information from the scooters’ sensors and camera networks to see how we can manage things better in the future.”