Aussie government backs Coventry firm with $1m grant

RDM Group's Pod Zero

Coventry-based autonomous vehicle designer and manufacturer, RDM Group has secured a $1m grant to begin trials of its pioneering driverless pod in Australia.

The funding, which equates to £610,000, has been supplied by the South Australian Government through its $10m Future Mobility Lab Fund.

RDM Group’s Adelaide-based Autonomous Programme Director, Roger van der Lee, said the funding would also be used to further establish the company’s Asia-Pacific base at Adelaide’s Tonsley innovation precinct.

“Our base within the Flinders University campus at Tonsley is our first international facility, and we’re very keen to start building a supply chain for our technology throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“RDM Group is already exploring trial opportunities with Flinders University and a range of other organisations interested in ‘first and last mile’ transport and logistics solutions.

“With global interest in autonomous freight and passenger transport systems growing rapidly, we want to make sure we are at the forefront of this cutting-edge new industry.”

RDM Group’s move to Adelaide followed a successful showcase of the company’s ‘Pod Zero’ at last year’s 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Melbourne.

As part of its local operations, the company will employ a Flinders University PhD student to boost the collaborative development of new technologies associated with the autonomous vehicles, such as efficient air conditioning and solar nanotechnology and integrations of the pods into the public transport network.

The firm employs 65 people at its base in Coventry, where the pod was first developed.

Dave Keene, chairman of RDM Group, said: “Establishing our base in Adelaide is hopefully a first step towards developing a bespoke assembly facility in South Australia that could potentially build hundreds of autonomous Pods every year and create local jobs.

“This is a great example of innovation – developed in the UK – being exported all over the world and will hopefully put us on the international map for driverless vehicle technology.”

The Pod has two variants – four-seater and eight-seater – with an operating speed up to 15mph, multiple battery options up to eight hours or 50 miles, wheelchair accessibility, and air conditioning.

The vehicle operates autonomously through multiple sensor technologies, including stereo cameras, LiDARS (laser-based light detection and ranging sensors), odometry and ultrasonics.

The group is targeting usage within the logistics, airport and other sectors.