STATE-of-the-art self-driving vehicles are being considered as a sustainable transport alternative for the Lake District.

The Lake District National Park is the first national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site to take part in such a feasibility study with Westfield Technology Group. It will explore new technologies which will allow people to access the park, which receives more than 18 million visitors each year, in an environmentally sustainable way. Automated ‘pods’ are being trialled as a potential solution.

The driverless pods, one of which is being brought to the Lake District this week to gauge public opinion, are electric self-driving vehicles, meaning no driver or steering wheel is required.

The pods use cutting edge technology, including sensors to detect road conditions and obstacles in the road, to transport people in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

One charge is enough for around 100km of travel.

If an object, animal or person moves in front of the pod it will be detected and the vehicle will slow down or stop. The on-board computers can ensure the vehicle brakes faster and anticipates changes in road conditions that the human eye could not.

Richard Leafe, chief executive at the Lake District National Park said: “We’re constantly looking at new ways to balance the needs and enjoyment of people as they visit and move around the Lake District, whilst being mindful of the impact on the environment.

“Driverless pods are a really interesting concept and while this is not necessarily something that will be seen on the Lake District streets soon, it’s vital we explore a range of solutions to sustainable travel. We’re excited to see the pods in action this week and to hear from the public on whether they would use this type of transport in the Lake District.”

On Friday (between 1pm-4pm) and Saturday (between 10am-4pm) a pod will be being demonstrated on-site at Brockhole on Windermere.

This is an Innovate UK-funded collaborative feasibility study between Westfield Technology Group and the Lake District National Park.

Julian Turner, Westfield Technology Group chief executive said: “We’re really excited to be trialling the pods in the Lake District, which is such a popular tourist destination in the UK. Through this project we’re identifying possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs. This collaborative effort will allow us to creative a sustainable and accessible transport mode for journeys in the future.”

“We’re particularly looking forward to hearing feedback from the local residents and visitors at Brockhole, as their input into how services can help meet their needs will be invaluable when planning possible routes for the pod to run in this area”

The outcomes of the feasibility study, which is due to end in June, will inform whether this type of transport would be suitable in the Lake District and which routes would be viable for vehicle travel.