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Q What is the Mi-Link project?

Mi-Link is the customer-facing name for the MultiCAV project, an ambitious 30-month project co-funded by industry and government to trial Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) as part of a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offering. The project was funded under the CCAV and Innovate UK “CAV 3” programme, to deliver an integrated MaaS trial that brings together automated transport options including shuttles, taxis, a full size bus and electric bikes, as well as existing conventional public transport, all accessible via a single journey planning platform.

Mi-Link is the first UK CCAV project aiming to deliver a public transport service using CAVs.

Q What are the project’s aims? 

The project is demonstrating the value of integrated MaaS and Connected Autonomous Vehicles through:

  • Operating connected and highly automated shuttles, taxi style vehicles and buses in mixed traffic on public roads and in public service
  • Developing a journey planning platform which enables a customer to plan journeys across multiple travel modes and receive relevant updates
  • Undertake a series of research projects to evaluate the various elements of the project
By demonstrating the power of this technology, we hope to set a benchmark for what integrated MaaS solutions can achieve. By providing additional modes of transport for travellers to choose (i.e. through modal shift), the project aims to reduce car use for trips within the Milton Park site by 50%.
Q Who is funding the project?

The project is a mixture of public and private investment with assistance from the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Innovate UK, joined with private investment from First Group, Arrival, Zipabout and with support from Milton Park.

Q Who are the members of the Mi-Link consortium, and what is their involvement?

FirstGroup is leading this project and brings together a diverse range of partners from national government (CCAV/Innovate UK), who are co-funding the trial, through to academia (University of the West of England), local government (Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse District Councils), MEPC (which manages Milton Park), vehicle manufacturer Arrival, software developer Zipabout and AV specialist consultants Nova Modus – all of whom are committed to delivering a project that provides high-quality results through the development of a door to door Mobility as a Service system..

Q Why have you chosen Milton Park as the location for this research project?

Given the cutting-edge businesses based at Milton Park, MEPC who operate the site, were keen to explore innovative solutions that cater to the high demand for transport to and from the site. We knew that as a partnership, our consortium could offer them just that. There was a will from local councils to explore a MaaS. MEPC is keen to reduce car use to, from and within the site and already implement various initiatives to achieve that objective.

Milton Park is adjacent to Didcot which was awarded ‘Garden Town’ status in 2015 – and with that has a mandate to develop a suitable transport proposal to meet the needs of a growing population in a sustainable way, without reliance on private cars. There is a key link between Didcot Railway Station and Milton Park as an employment centre. There are substantial flows of people between Milton Park and Didcot Parkway station and these will be complemented by development of Didcot Garden Town.

Q When will the first shuttle be ready to take passengers?

The shuttle is currently being procured and we expect to see vehicles on site at Milton Park early in 2021 with passenger operations starting from around June 2021.

These dates are dependent on development plans and reaching the required safety standards prior to operation beginning. Please check the website for updated operational dates.

Q Will Brexit have an impact on this project?

Although academia and innovation are transnational sectors, the project and its partners are based in the UK. We will work closely with any party whose supply chain may be impacted and will continue to review all plans throughout the project. No disruption or adverse effect is anticipated.

Q Why is the government investing so heavily in connected and automated vehicle projects like Mi-Link? Mi-link is part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. It is part of the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund, supporting the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge.

As a key part of the UK government’s modern Industrial Strategy, the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge was announced in 2017 to encourage and support extraordinary innovation in UK engineering and technology, making the UK a world leader within the transport industries.

This includes facilitating profound changes in transport technologies and business models, to make the movement of people, goods and services across the nation greener, safer, easier and more reliable.

Q What makes Mi-Link different from any other autonomous vehicle project?

The trialling of a multi-modal Mobility as a Service solution using a mixed fleet of connected and autonomous public transport vehicles on public roads will be a new step for the UK. Working closely with local planners, looking at sustainable developments not reliant on the private car, will guide the project’s future applicability. Much of the project’s focus is on undertaking research into the user engagement for such new modes.

Q Is there a set period for the project to last? The project is scheduled to last for a total of 30 months, concluding in 2022.
Q What will happen at the end of the project? Will the shuttles be removed?

The future of the project and its vehicles depends on successful operation and on what data comes from the trial – in terms of overall demand for the service. Funding for the project is until 2022, however, we are committed to making this project as sustainable as possible and exploring options to see it extended.

Q How can I use the vehicle? As we get closer to carrying passengers, more details will be released via the Mi-Link journey planner.
Q How much will it cost to use the vehicle? Using the CAV vehicles in the trial is free, but part of the work we do will be exploring passengers’ willingness to pay to use a service like this.
Q Where will it take me and via what route?

The transport provided as part of our project will be based on demand from passengers. The routing will vary according to suitability of the route for the vehicle type being used.

Q Will the vehicle go to the station like the current shuttle bus does?

Routes will be identified on the basis of demand and appropriate vehicles will be used to service the prevailing level of demand. It is anticipated that there will be a link between Milton Park and Didcot Parkway station for at least part of the trial.

Q Is there a driver?

In line with current legislation, there will always be a person on board our vehicles, who can intervene and take control if required.

Q What if the vehicle hits something?

Safety will always be at the core of our operation, from choosing the correct vehicle to assessing the routes to operate and limitations of operation.

In the event of any incident, our operators and other staff will be able to assist anyone who is involved.

Q How does the vehicle know when to stop?

The vehicles are equipped with an array of sensors which will detect and respond to the environment around them. All vehicles to be trialled are fitted with conventional braking systems.

Q How does the vehicle know where to go?

The vehicles are controlled by an operating platform which will either be operating to a pre-programmed route or able to amend its route dynamically in response to passenger demand generated through the Mi-Link and other local journey planners.

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Please contact Veronica Reynolds if you have any further questions.