Driverless transport wins award
Press release issued: 15 March 2010
A revolutionary form of driverless travel – the ULTra (Urban Light Transport) – pioneered at Bristol University has been awarded the Viva Award for 2009.
The award, presented to Advanced Transport Systems Ltd (ATS) and collected by Martin Lowson, President of ATS and Emeritus Professor of Advanced Transport at Bristol University, recognises transport innovation or development in Europe.
ULTra is an innovative form of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). Conventional forms of public transit require passengers to collect in groups until a large vehicle, scheduled to travel on predetermined routes, arrives. In contrast, ULTra offers personal transport with no waiting, and takes passengers non-stop to their chosen destination. This is a transport system which is as convenient as the car, but with minimal environmental impact.
The award-winning ULTra is electrically powered and will provide low cost and sustainable transport, using 70 per cent less energy per passenger-kilometre than a car and with zero emissions in town. In addition, 95 per cent of ULTra passengers will have a waiting time of less than one minute, even at peak times.
Professor Martin Lowson, said: “ATS is thrilled to receive the award and delighted this new transport technology has been recognised.
“We look forward to a future in which ULTra has launched a new form of transport which will have equivalent benefits for people in the present century.”
Later this year the first public ULTra system — which is also the first commercial Personal Rapid Transit system anywhere in the world — will open at London’s Heathrow Airport. The system comprises four kilometers of guideway and will link one station in Terminal 5 to two remote stations in the Business car park.
In August 2009 ULTra was featured at the Science Museum as the 21st century equivalent of Stephenson’s Rocket, the first commercially successful steam locomotive, which launched the railway era, 180 years before.
The Viva Award 2009 has been awarded annually since 1957. Previous recipients are 1960 - Sir Christopher Cockerell for the invention of the Hovercraft; 1978 - Sir Freddie Laker for the Skytrain; 1994 – Eurotunnel for the Channel Tunnel and 2008 – McLaren Mercedes for achieving the Formula 1 Drivers Championship in 2008.
Further informationThe Viva Award 2009 was presented at the Livery Banquet, held in the Mansion House, London on Tuesday 9 March.
The Worshipful Company of Carmen's Viva Award consists of the Viva Shield, which bears the names of the previous winners and is held by the recipient for one year, together with a framed citation.
The Viva Shield, together with a gold medal and citation, is awarded annually for the invention, principle, development, production, implemented system or other idea which contributes most notably to the advancement of transport in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with particular reference to road transport, in the preceding year.
The Award was founded and the shield presented by the late Reginald Bezzant, FRGS, MInstT, when he was Master in 1956/57. From his death until 1981, the Award was administered by his son, Norman Bezzant, who was Master in 1968/69. It was not presented in 1970, 1971, 1979, 1987, 1990, 1995, 1996 and 2001.
Martin Lowson, President of Advanced Transport Systems Ltd (ATS) and Emeritus Professor of Advanced Transport at Bristol University Martin was the originator of the ULTra concept while Sir George White Professor at the University of Bristol. Previously, Martin worked in the US on the Apollo Space Program, where he led a team of over 50 staff and became Chief Scientist of Westland Helicopters, where he established and led the Westland Technology Demonstrator programme. This generated the advanced rotor system, for which he is a patentee, now used on both Lynx and EH101 helicopters. This rotor was used to set the absolute world speed record for helicopters, held by Westland since 1986. He later became Director of Corporate Development Westland plc, responsible for marketing the EH101 in Canada and for establishing two systems companies. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering 1991, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society 1986 and an overseas Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1993.