How would you like to get a lift in an autonomous electric pod? It could happen sooner than you think.

Ireland is making strides towards introducing a national fleet of autonomous electric vehicles.

A team of researchers in Athlone IT's Software Research Institute and  Technology Gateway COMAND, together with IT Sligo, are spearheading the charge in making this a reality.

Overseeing the project is Michael Newham, founder of GoCar CarSharing. "What we are talking about is slow autonomous roving with no-one onboard, travelling at around 15 km per hour. Not only will they be able to pick you up at your house, but you'd be able to get deliveries from them."

Researchers are looking at the ZB, a three-seater fully enclosed vehicle, which is manufactured across Europe. They want to make them autonomous pods.

Researchers are looking at the ZB, a three-seater fully enclosed vehicle, which is manufactured across Europe. They want to make them autonomous pods.

How would they be used?

"If you need to drop the kids off to school and then connect with a train to head on to work, you'd call this pod to outside your house, you'd hop in, the kids would hop in the back, and you'd drop your kids off to school," explained Mr Newham.

"When you hop off the pod at the train station, it will then move on to the next person. So in the space of an hour, you could have six trips done in this very small pod which is about a fifth of the weight of an ordinary car, and that would save five or six cars off the road in that hour."

All interested stakeholders and researchers are meeting in AIT today at a Zero Emission Challenge workshop, to discuss how the scheme could be introduced.

Mr Newham said even though the Government has the aspiration to introduce 950,000 electric vehicles, it would only result in minimal carbon emission reductions.

"This is what's called mobility on demand," he said. "Micro mobility is the most important, so that's walking, cycling, and hopefully scooters when they come in.

"It's important to make places more walkable and cyclable. The next form is macro mobility so that's car sharing, and then we also have this mini mobility which are these small pods. All of them need to feed into public transport," he said.

If a fleet of electric autonomous pods are introduced in Ireland, they could be on our roads in two years, according to Mr Newham.