Gatwick airport has announced a trial of autonomous vehicles for staff shuttling between airfield locations.

The trial – which the airport stresses will not include any passengers – is being run in partnership with software developer Oxbotica, and will allow staff to use autonomous vehicles to move around the airfield, via the airside roads connecting the North and South Terminals.

Gatwick said it believes the trial is the first of its kind for an airport, and added that if successful, it could lead to “’an Uber-like service’ that staff can hail when they need to travel across the airfield”.

The airport said that currently its 300 airside vehicles are stationary 90 per cent of the time, and said that autonomous vehicles – if successful and scalled up – “could lead to airfield transport needs being met from a much smaller pool of autonomous vehicles, reducing the need for such large vehicle fleets, reducing emissions and saving on costs”.

It also said that the technology could also eventually be used for a range of other autonomous vehicles at airports, from aircraft push back tugs to passenger load bridges and transportation buses.

Commenting on the trial Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica said:

“Airports offer an incredibly interesting domain for our autonomous driving software. There is a huge diversity of vehicles, each with a very specific mission.

“The challenge of choreographing all of the activity around an individual plane, or in support of airport operations is immense and we look forward to working closely with Gatwick on this initial pilot that will demonstrate our self-driving technology carrying staff around the airfield.”,